Croc horror Black Water: Abyss a 'confidently staged but predictable thriller'

Adventure-seeking couples are trapped in a flooded cave with killer crocodiles in the horror thriller Black Water: Abyss. Damon Smith reviews...

Amali Golden as Yolanda in Black Water: Abyss
Damon Smith

BLACK WATER: ABYSS (15, 98 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Jessica McNamee, Luke Mitchell, Benjamin Hoetjes, Amali Golden, Anthony J Sharpe. Director: Andrew Traucki.

Rating: 5/10

THRILL-seekers get far more than they bargain for in director Andrew Traucki's bloodthirsty, waterlogged horror, which has the misfortune of surfacing in the wake of yesteryear's infinitely superior woman-versus-alligator nail-biter, Crawl.

Set in the lush forests of Northern Australia, Black Water: Abyss contrives to trap five unfortunate souls below ground in a rapidly flooding cave with a voracious apex predator that hunts by vibrations in the water.

"Crocs are territorial. He's not gonna be happy 'til we're all gone," handily explains one thinly sketched character in Ian John Ridley and Sarah Smith's script, which struggles to find a pleasing balance between edge-of-seat scares and heart-wrenching drama.

They follow the lead of Ridley Scott's masterclass in sustained tension, Alien, and capsize gender stereotypes to promote female characters when the going gets tough.

The dimly-lit, subterranean setting should allow Traucki to slowly crank up tension and conceal surprise attacks from his reptilian menace.

However, it's painfully obviously when cast are poised to depart in a grisly fashion and we are braced far in advance for a creature to leap out of the water and clamp its jaws around a torso to a symphony of reverberating screams and crunching bones.

Gung-ho thrill-seeker Eric (Luke Mitchell) and his level-headed girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) invite good friends Yolanda (Amali Golden) and Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) to join them on an expedition to a remote, uncharted cave system.

Travel journalist Viktor, who is used to making up articles from the comfort of a hotel room, is concerned about the potential risks.

"I thought you said going into remission made you want to live life to the full?" calmly argues his girlfriend Yolanda. "Don't you want to experience something new?"

The plucky quartet are joined by Eric's friend Cash (Anthony J Sharpe), who stumbled upon the cave while searching for missing Japanese trekkers.

A tropical storm blows in from the north shortly after the group abseil into the mouth of the cave and stumble upon a subterranean lake.

As rain lashes down, a nearby river floods its banks and Eric, Jennifer, Yolanda, Viktor and Cash are trapped below ground.

The disoriented adventurers find a potential escape route blocked by at least one crocodile, setting in motion a bloodthirsty battle royale between terrified human interlopers and flesh-hungry reptiles.

Black Water: Abyss is a predictable survival thriller, which splish-splashes through confidently staged set-pieces.

Scriptwriters Ridley and Smith refuse to wedge tongues in cheek when characters loudly tease impending doom – "I don't like the look of this", "No-one knows we're down here, right?" – or when they engineer a hilarious finale ripped out of the Jaws playbook.

McNamee and Golden are spunky damsels in deluged distress, who cope well with the gruelling physical demands of their underwritten roles.

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