BLACK WATER: ABYSS: Crocodile Horror Lacks Bite

Black Water: Abyss follows a group of five friends as they journey into an Australian cave system, hoping to find a new tourist trap, but coming face to face with an angry crocodile instead. Black Water: Abyss is directed by Andrew Traucki and written by John Ridley and Sarah Smith. The film is a sequel to the 2007 film Black Water. It stars Jessica McNamee as Jennifer, Luke Mitchell as Eric, Amali Golden as Yolanda, Anthony J. Sharpe as Cash, and Benjamin Hoetjes as Viktor.

Strong Set Up That Falls Flat

Black Water: Abyss starts with a memorable scene showcasing the horrors to follow, but the rest of the film never lives up to this opening scene. This sets up the film and draws you into the action, but everything else pales in comparison.

The use of a crocodile point-of-view attack in this first scene works so well, but no other attack in the film can live up to it. This opening where we see unknown characters attacked by the monster we are going to meet shortly packs more of an emotional punch than the rest of the film. I felt more for these two tourists than I did for the characters we are supposed to care about in the main action of the film.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS: Crocodile Horror Lacks Bite
source: Screen Media

Throughout most of the film, the crocodile attacks are the horror equivalent of Liam Neeson climbing over a fence in Taken 3. When any action happens within Black Water: Abyss, all you can clearly place is splashing water.

Maybe you can see a glimpse of the crocodile, but there are no standout moments where the creature takes center stage over fast water splashes made to make the audience assume something is happening.

Drama Overpowers Horror

Black Water: Abyss could be a fun and gory horror film, but too much focus is given to the drama and love lives of the main group of friends, and not in a way that makes us feel more connected to them and their stories.

At times, Black Water: Abyss comes across like Lifetime Meets Anaconda, and not in the over-the-top entertaining way that could play out. More of the runtime is given to conversations about cheating, pregnancy, and wrongly timed proposals than crocodiles.

This type of focus on character over the monster in horror can work, but the personalities and stories need to be interesting enough to deserve that much time of a film that should be focused on creating lasting and interesting horror set-pieces.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS: Crocodile Horror Lacks Bite
source: Screen Media

During its second half, Black Water: Abyss starts to pick up but is quickly over. There are a few interesting moments of seeing the crocodile in the distance, surrounded by darkness, but these are few and far between. Some of the scenes where we do see the crocodile’s teeth, the action is in the background of the shot, almost too far away to really tell what is happening.

Once we are in the home stretch, I enjoyed the film a little bit more, because its use of music to signify survival and relief works to create a special tension before one final showdown that involves trying to shoot a crocodile. It might not pack the same emotional punch as Kirsten Dunst shooting an alligator in On Becoming a God in Central Florida, but this is one to remember. It gives Black Water: Abyss the bad-ass final girl moment that instantly makes any horror film a little bit better.

Building Horror Through Music

Black Water: Abyss utilizes its score to create suspense and tension, and occasionally it works. Most often the music overpowers the film and gives off that generic horror music sound – the sound associated with horror that relies too heavily on sounding daunting rather than building memorable scares from the environment and premise.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS: Crocodile Horror Lacks Bite
source: Screen Media

In this case, the music feels more like it’s replacing other aspects of horror instead of adding to them to create full-bodied moments of terror on film. The different aspects of film-making found in Black Water: Abyss seem more at ends with each other than complementary.

The music itself sounds harrowing and filled with tense and loud moments, but too much of the horror replies solely on the sound instead of the ways in which it mixes with the visuals of the film.

Conclusion

Black Water: Abyss starts strong in its horror – complete with bone and blood – but too quickly, the film devolves into a story of drama with a background of splashing water, and a few glimpses of what could be a crocodile. Black Water: Abyss replaces interesting horror with more generic, and overly dramatic plot points. Its ending moment works well, but there’s not enough fun, crocodile horror found in the rest of the film.

Do you think crocodile-focused horror should be a bigger sub-genre? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Black Water: Abyss releases August 7, 2020 in theaters and On Demand.


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