47 Meters Down: Uncaged review

For inSing

47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED

Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast : Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Stallone, John Corbett, Nia Long
Genre : Adventure/Thriller
Run Time : 1 h 30 mins
Opens : 29 August 2019
Rating : PG13

            In 2017, 47 Meters Down chronicled the misadventures of two sisters who got into a shark cage while on vacation in Mexico. As the title suggests, this sequel dispenses with the cage, following four friends into caves where sharks are waiting.

Mia (Sophie Nélisse) is having a hard time at school where she is constantly bullied, and has trouble getting along with her stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx). Their dad Grant (John Corbett) is a commercial diver who is mapping a sunken Mayan city, preparing for visiting archaeologists.

Sasha’s friend Alexa (Brianne Tju), who has followed Grant’s employee Ben (Davi Santos) into the caves, convinces Mia, Sasha and Nicole (Sistine Stallone) to go exploring in the caves. The plan is to swim into the first chamber and then return, but naturally, things go wrong. Sharks which have adapted to the low-light conditions of the underwater caverns terrorise the girls, who are trapped with a fast-depleting oxygen supply. The four girls must help each other survive and escape.

Director Johannes Roberts returns for the sequel, which has no characters in common with its predecessor. In a way, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged seems like a typical direct-to-DVD sequel, with a different cast but a similar premise to the first. However, Uncaged has a noticeably bigger budget than the first movie. Roberts is more ambitious with this film, staging several exciting sequences that are more elaborate than what we saw in 47 Meters Down, which was by its nature quite spare.

Shooting any movie underwater is no small logistical undertaking, especially given the film’s limited budget. The film’s set design and explosive finale sequence contribute to a slightly bigger feel than its predecessor.

With its all-female main cast, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is kind of like a less-gnarly version of The Descent. Roberts cowrote the screenplay with Ernest Riera; it appears neither knows how teenage girls talk to each other. The movie struggles to parcel out enough information about our protagonists before the action begins such that we care about them when they’re in peril. As such, the characters are all thinly drawn.

Sophie Nélisse, who put in an excellent performance in The Book Thief, is the awkward, level-headed protagonist. Succumbing to peer pressure, she is coaxed into doing something silly and dangerous by her stepsister and her friends. Giving off slight Saoirse Ronan vibes, Nélisse is the best actress of the four, in part because there is just that little bit more to her character than to the others

Corrine Foxx, daughter of Jamie, plays a character who’s a bit stuck up. Naturally, the two stepsisters will bond over the course of their harrowing ordeal. Sistine Stallone, daughter of Sylvester, is there to be the party animal friend who in horror movie terms is almost begging to be the first to die.

Brianne Tju’s Alexa is confident without being annoying, and next to Mia, is the one who knows what’s she doing.

John Corbett puts in some dependable character actor work, playing what amounts to a textbook supporting role.

The visual effects work, mainly created by Outpost VFX, is mostly good. The sharks have evolved to survive in the submerged caves, making them register more as movie monsters than regular sharks. The film ends with a disclaimer message stating that around 10 people die in shark attacks each year, vs 100 million sharks that get killed by humans. There is a valid fear that movies like 47 Meters Down: Uncaged perpetuate a disproportionate fear of sharks, so that might be why Roberts has played up the movie monster attributes of the animals in this film.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is often trapped between being all-out campy fun and being a legitimately scary thriller. Despite weak writing and a somewhat dull middle stretch, the film is mostly entertaining, so much so that one could almost forgive it ripping off Deep Blue Sea’s most memorable scene.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Boy Next Door

For F*** Magazine

THE BOY NEXT DOOR

Director : Rob Cohen
Cast : Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth, Ian Nelson
Genre : Thriller
Run Time : 91 mins
Opens : 22 January 2015
Rating : R21
            January is upon us again, and as much as we try to brace ourselves against it, we’ll never be fully shielded from the deluge of dump month dreck. In this very January thriller, Jennifer Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a high school literature teacher whose marriage to her husband (Corbett) is on the rocks after he cheats on her. Along comes Noah Sandborn (Guzman), the new dashing, young next-door neighbour. Friendly, helpful and quick to befriend Claire’s bullied son Kevin (Nelson), Claire is eventually seduced by Noah, culminating in a night of passion. She realises her mistake, but Noah’s obsession with her escalates, putting Claire, her family and friends in mortal danger.
            The Boy Next Door comes from Blumhouse Productions, a studio which has found great success with low-budget horror flicks including the Paranormal Activity franchise. It is puzzling just what demographic The Boy Next Door is going for. On the surface, there’s the Desperate Housewives-style angle of a woman in her 40s falling for a dangerous boy toy but the film’s second half packs in swearing, surprisingly gruesome violence and a dash of nudity (though not from Lopez herself). The Boy Next Door is at once a Lifetime Channel movie of the week and an early-90s erotic thriller, taking the very worst elements of both, the end result wholly lacking in any kind of real appeal. From the get-go, it’s hokey and predictable, Barbara Curry’s screenplay packed with utterly cringe-worthy lines. For example, as part of the set-up of how impossibly ideal a man Noah is, he’s not only handy but is also into classic literature and at one point says “dude, you gotta read The Iliad”.
            Jennifer Lopez’s film career has generally not been regarded as a successful one, despite her numerous credits. Unlike former flame Ben Affleck, she will likely never be able to outrun the shadow of Gigliand that shadow looms large in The Boy Next Door. Jennifer Lopez as a literature teacher is about as believable as when Mark Wahlberg played a science teacher in The Happening. Lopez is a co-producer and it seems the film primarily exists so she can show off that famous figure of hers. We speculate that her character being the object of a much younger man’s ravenous desire was probably appealing to Lopez as well.
            Ryan Guzman, of Step Up: Revolution fame, also gets to flaunt his body – his character is actually introduced by way of a bicep entering the frame. Guzman is an example of what we call the “Abercrombie-isation” of Hollywood’s male leads and his acting skills are indeed sorely lacking. He’s a passable sexy bad boy but is plainly unconvincing as a crazy, deadly stalker and all in all, comes off as one of the blandest psychopaths to ever creep across the screen. Kristin Chenoweth is Claire’s stock annoying friend and conveniently enough the vice principal at Claire’s school. Ian Nelson is stiff as Claire’s son Kevin who looks up to Noah and sees him as someone to emulate. One element that does have potential is how Noah manipulates Kevin in order to get closer to his mother, though even that gets really silly really fast.
            It would seem that director Rob Cohen’s career is spiralling downwards and even when compared to his infamous bomb Stealth, The Boy Next Door is several steps down on the bad movie ladder. Judging by a “tense” sequence built around a runaway Shelby Mustang that concludes in the most stunt show-y way possible, it appears that Cohen dearly misses the Fast and the Furious films, the first of which he directed. Instead, he has racked up so many blemishes on his track record that he has to say yes to helming this pile of unintentional hilarity instead.
Summary: A train-wreck in which unconvincing performances, bad dialogue and half-baked thrills lie on the ground in a twisted mess, The Boy Next Door is a typical January flick.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5Stars
Jedd Jong