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Underwater (2020): Aquatic Horrors & Lovecraftian Creatures

Ghouls are talking about the aquatic creature feature, Underwater. Gabe dives into the horrors of being trapped underwater where the environment wants to kill you. She also discusses the dystopian, villainous company that awakens the beasts below. Kat shares their fears of the ocean and tells us about all the monstrous fish just waiting to kill you.

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Media from this week's episode:

Underwater (2020)

A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep-sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deepwater research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Director: William Eubank


Underwater: Deep Diving Dangers & Lovecraftian Monsters

by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Underwater takes place very that, under the ocean. Deep in the Mariana Trench (the deepest trench on Earth) is an underwater drilling site, Kepler 822. We are first introduced to Norah (played by Kristen Stewart) on the seemingly empty base. She works for a company known as Tian Industries and is a mechanic. Through voiceover, we get introduced to the grungy and sad world she lives in. “Under the water, you lose track of time. You don’t know what day and night is.” Giving us incredible Alien vibes, Kepler 822 and the other places she and other workers traverse are incredibly claustrophobic and industrial. Norah rambles on about her uncaring world, illuminating her depressing character when we hear some strange churning, creaking, sounds that you really don’t want to hear when you’re underwater. Then she feels a few drops before it becomes clear something is wrong. The base erupts into a watery grave while Norah frantically runs through the halls, yelling for everyone to wake up and attempts to seal off areas that have been flooded. We see many workers rushing to where she is but there’s no time and she has to seal them behind, ultimately resulting in their death. Along her journey to the escape pods, she runs into other workers trying to survive. There’s Rodrigo, a soft-spoken man who works hard to get to know Norah and comfort her as she struggles with the unintentional murder. Paul (played by TJ Miller) is our strange Alice in Wonderland obsessed underwater weirdo who serves as comic relief. Captain Lucien who attempts to keep things under control and make a man out of the crew. Emily a glorified intern (I mean research assistant) who really didn’t want to be here in the first place and surprisingly, the voice of reason. And lastly, Smith who is also there. This ragtag group navigates the watery grave and decide the best way to survive is to walk a mile to get to a different facility with presumably working escape pods. However, since this is a horror movie, apparently the horrors of being underwater in a base that is taking on water isn’t enough to scare people, there are mysterious beings stalking and picking off our crew one by one.

Underwater Terror:

I thoroughly enjoyed this film despite it garnering many bad reviews. Though I understand the disappointment some felt at the rather empty plot and one-dimensional characters, there was something charming and honest about this setting that captured my interest immediately. I am terrified of closed, claustrophobic spaces. Space itself is terrifying to me because we are not meant to exist up there but neither are we made to exist in the ocean. The amount of care that goes into the construction of these bases, the suits, and more is fascinating and proof that we just shouldn’t be there. As soon as we are introduced to the suffocating, empty facility, Norah brushing her teeth and waxing poetic, I was in. Watching crew people not only die from the monsters in the film but also becoming victims to the environment they were disrespecting by being there was terrifying.

Spoilers Ahead:

Underwater almost immediately falls into the terrible, exhausted trope of killing off its only black character and doing this first. (No name characters die all around us but Rodrigo is the first character to die that we care about). How he dies was enough to distract me from that faux-pas and Mamoudou Athie’s performance had me in my feels. Rodrigo is a soft, kind man and we see his nervous fear overshadowed by Emily’s. While trying to flee the deteriorating base, the crew dons hard suits and submerge themselves in water. Once they reach their location, the work to open doors and pressurize the space they’re in. However, Rodrigo’s helmet was faulty and begins to crack. To the cries and dismay of Emily and Norah, the cabin get pressurized and Rodrigo implodes in his suit.

I did find some interesting factual errors about their suits and the deaths that occur. On the helpful website, Movie Mistakes they helpfully explain,

The way the implosions were simulated isn't exactly accurate. At that depth, going from a pressurized suit immediately to unpressurized would completely crush you, to almost non existence. Instead, in the cases of Rodrigo and the captain, they seem to explode with such a force (an outward exertion of energy) that it blows everything and everyone back. The worst being Rodrigo, he "implodes" (as the movie says) but a regular sized (albeit torn off) human hand hits Norah on her helmet and I think there was a normal sized eyeball that floated by. Again, these parts would be reduced (or flattened) to an unidentifiable size.

They also mention that, The "hard suits" the divers wear have soft, relatively normal gloves and soft joints. More akin to a football uniform with armor over spandex. They are at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, at 36,0000 feet below sea level. The pressure is over 7,000 psi. Without a hard suit, they would instantly be crushed.

Which is honestly terrifying in and of itself. Also, an issue that Kat and I had with the ending was addressed in one factual mistake report. The Kepler's energy core is a huge nuclear reactor. It can easily obliterate the whole station so its accessibility should be protected by all kinds of fail-safe systems and high level security protocols, yet, Norah - a simple mechanic - can fire it up and overcharge it without any password, keycard, identification method or such, only by pressing a few buttons, then 'space' (not even 'enter'). There is not even a confirmation process before switching the reactor to terminal overload.

The Real Horror:

Though the environment was interesting to me and influenced my appreciation of the film, I also enjoyed the small background details of the film. The announcements throughout the base, the fliers, and even the company’s goal were also haunting and terrifying. The vibe reminded me heavily of the aquatic horror games, Bioshock and SOMA. Bioshock features an underwater civilization that relied heavily on propaganda and was reminiscent of 1984. In Underwater, we learn about Tian Industries through the signage in the facilities and the announcements over intercoms reminding the workers that they’re “not just a part of the team, but a part of the family,” and to “file complaints with their supervisors.” These we hear as the station erupts into watery terror around Norah. Seeking refuge, Norah finds herself on another base that had been previously abandoned. This site is full of posters and other paperwork encouraging hardwork and obedience. It felt so eerie to imagine the life they lived before the earthquake and how horrifying it was to work for this company.

In the end credits, we learn more about the film’s background and about Tian Industries. The year is 2050 and despite strange sightings at drilling sites, Tian Industries is persevering and drilling for natural resources. The company refuses to shut down despite the horrific acts and silences the only two survivors. It’s not too far off from the current state of our world and despite the existence of monsters, completely believable. We’ve covered this in episodes previously like, The Bay where those in charge ignore horrible events and cover up the murders of thousands. The money-hungry industries continue to siphon the resources from our planet without any respect or understanding for the effects or the limitations.

Emily says in a moment of awe and terror, We're not even supposed to be down here. We drilled to the bottom of the ocean, and we don’t know what came out.

Lovecraftian horror:

As mentioned there are monsters afoot. The film becomes less aquatic horror and more creature feature when we first catch glimpse of strange Slenderman-like creatures outside. As the crew adventures forward to safety, they encounter a dead body that appears to have had something emerge from inside of it. In a truly Alien fashion, we see that a small creature has been born inside this human and in a move that would greatly anger Ripley, they bring it inside (and touch it with their bare hands!)

There creatures are Deep Ones, a Lovecraftian creation. Deep Ones are fish-like creatures who reside underwater. They are attracted to humans and try to mate with them to create half-breeds of fish-humans. For the majority of