Anachronistically, 2020 brings a slew of horror and thriller films normally released early fall. Following the release of “The Grudge” and a precursor to “The Turning” and “Gretel and Hansel,” “Underwater” was positioned among the untimely array Friday Jan. 10.

Director William Eubank’s “Underwater” chronicles five deep sea researchers’ attempt to
survive along the ocean floor seven miles below the surface; their compound has been severely damaged and all others are dead. Threatened by several tons of gushing water, metal, pipes and debris, their only chance of survival is escape.

All surface pods gone or destroyed, our team’s only remaining option is to journey to the next compound by foot; equipping mechanical, pressurized suits, they depart, survival uncertain. The catastrophic events initially believed earthquake-driven, are quickly realized to be much more. Our researchers learn they aren’t alone as they are chased and attacked along their expedition. Tien Industries, their employer, has been drilling below the Marianna Trench and something’s been awoken.

Norah Price, mechanical engineer and lead character, is played by Kristen Stewart. The film enters Price lamenting the psychological effects living underwater fosters and a loss for any sense of time without sunlight. “Underwater” likewise passes time seamlessly for viewers, plunging them immediately into the action.

The scenery, effects and cinematography in “Underwater” are riveting. Its eighty-million-dollar budget is apparent in the detailed sets, costumes and creature design. Our characters, however, unlike the setting’s depth, are shallow. One survivor, Paul, provides short lived comic relief, but other than an unexplained stuffed rabbit he carries, little is revealed. Our stoic captain played by Vincent Cassel has few lines, and a soft love story passes almost unnoticeable for the other two researchers.

“Underwater” serves as a great claustrophobic sci-fi horror with some great scares; it’s fun popcorn entertainment. Though Stewart’s few meaningful lines end the story without a strong moral, the premise clings to the coattails of films like “Jurassic Park” and 2018’s “The Meg” as warnings of scientific overreach. An overall simplistic plot, the creatures beg to be further explored; unfortunately, an opening weekend of ten million makes a sequel unlikely.

The film’s PG-13 rating pushes the envelope slightly with two f-bombs. Several other instances of cursing, reference to Stewart’s flat chest, and gore makes the flick strongly suggested for parental advisory.

For an entertaining thriller, the film is highly recommended, but don’t go looking for a deep plot under water.