All film club write-ups are very spoilery. Also don’t worry if you don’t know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, you find out two paragraphs in.
It’s nearly a year since I’ve written about a film club watch, though Liz and I have continued determinedly viewing a narrow variety of low-budget horrors. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt watching the worst, weirdest movies, it’s that life has a habit of not imitating art but actually overtaking it.
Today, a mere 24 hours after we sat down to watch Black Water: Abyss, about a huge crocodile killing a bunch of attractive twentysomethings exploring a flooded cave system in the Australian forests, England trumped it all. Check out this story in The Guardian, about comedian John Shuttleworth cancelling his cave gig after a man fell into a cavern called The Devil’s Arse:
Now I should say that Black Water: Abyss is not art. The only way you could get art from Black: Water Abyss is if you used the movie title as the basis for a wordsearch. But it’s quite tense in places, and I learned a lot, including this from the movie’s IMDB page:
Doing my pre-watch googling I also discovered caving is known as spelunking, from a middle English word spelunk, meaning cave.
That’s spelunking, not Kerplunking, which is what you do when playing Kerplunk!, while desperately avoiding going spelunking.
Kerplunking, like spelunking, is also a “nerve-wracking game of skill”. Though I’m willing to bet that many times during their day out, Black Water: Abyss‘s attractive victims Cash (Anthony J Sharpe), hot Eric (Luke Mitchell), Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes), Yolanda (Amali Golden) and Jen (Jessica McNamee) wished they’d stayed at home and played with marbles instead.
The two couples (minus Eric’s tour guide friend Cash, whom they meet up with en route) are good friends: Viktor (a travel writer who prefers hotel life to adventure and has also just recovered from cancer) and Yolanda (pregnant but hasn’t told the father yet); and Jen and hot Eric (who are having relationship traumas). You can see where this is going, can’t you.
And that unborn baby certainly helps with the “who will survive?” game, as it’s an unwritten rule of your basic creature feature that pregnant ladies tend to make it (see also — shark spoiler alert — Great White). Not all girls are final girls, but all pregnant girls are.
There are others involved too. A Japanese couple who disappear at the start of the movie are like ghosts on the periphery, mentioned as warnings before their various body parts start drifting up to the surface.
Cash, who found the cave while helping search for the missing tourists, wants to explore it to see if he can run tours there. Once parked up, their journey inside the cave system is short, and they soon emerge into a stunning underground cavern with a lake. Did I say stunning, I meant polystyrene. I fully expected it to float away when the waters started rising — a caving movie staple, as no one ever pays attention to the weather forecast that always states something like WORST TROPICAL STORM EVER INCOMING, GO HOME NOW.
Naturally, they didn’t charge their batteries enough at home either, and their big lights go out. (Honestly, just include a mum on every trip as we charge everything into oblivion before we even head to Tesco. And once the apocalypse arrives track her down again, as her multiple portable chargers will keep your band of raggedy irradiated survivors happy with Candy Crush for weeks once the food runs out.)
There are some nifty scares as the crocodile starts to target them and we wait for the gang to go from eye roll to death roll to sausage roll; though the tense music is doing some very heavy lifting.
The crocodile is massive, and really quite impressive. Crocodile Dundee wouldn’t last a minute reptile-wrangling this (very big) baby (a pissed off woman with a gun might fare better, of which more later).
The performances aren’t really the point, and are neither good nor bad. It’s not a particularly exciting movie and just feels like a missed opportunity, especially when the revelations start coming. The film club has watched a few caving horrors recently and only the species of underwater animal assassin changes. None come close to the pure terror (and heartbreaking ending — the British cut, anyway) of The Descent. Watching this, the film club Zoom chat box was mainly agreement that we’d never go caving, not because of oversized crocodiles but because of what caving actually involves. It’s scary in itself, which makes it even odder that so many caving horror movies just aren’t very frightening, or claustrophobic.
As we’re basically watching several gorgeous people sitting on polystyrene rock waiting to die, the waters rising and bringing the crocodile with it, there are some other diversions to keep our interest. Poor Viktor is badly injured, then has an asthma attack, and various incidents force one or other of them into the water, where their reptilian nemesis awaits.
It’s pack alpha Hot Eric who announces he and Cash must swim back out and phone for help, though they find their escape blocked with rocks. Cash is then killed by the croc and Eric has to make it back to the others without him, because since the pandemic no one carries Cash any more (sorrynotsorry).
Jen realises there’s a breeze, which means some kind of tunnel to the outside world; and Yolanda tells Victor he’s going to be a dad. I know, it’s all going on down there, as my obstetrician used to say. She and Eric then try to get out via the newly discovered passage, with Yolanda taking the opportunity to inform him he’s actually the father of her baby.
Poor Viktor, left balanced on the polystyrene with Jen, is delighted about being a dad, especially as he thought his cancer treatment had left him sterile. Jen realises what’s up — her forehead can really act — and goes through Yolanda’s camera, where she finds loved-up photos of her friend with Eric. Luckily she doesn’t tell Viktor, who is soon killed by the crocodile anyway, and doesn’t need to hear his girlfriend was shagging his best mate as well. Left alone, traumatised from witnessing Viktor’s death, Jen sees light reflected on the water. Erik and Yolanda return, having failed to get out, and Jen tackles them over the affair, which both say was a mistake.
Eric surmises the lake water is being sucked out like bath water down a plughole, which rather spoiled the tension for me, and frankly has undertones of the Devil’s Arse (see above). The only way out is by swimming for it, so while he distracts the croc — RIP Eric, you were hot and brave, even if you couldn’t keep it in your pants — the girls swim off in terror, first into what looks like a nest, then quickly out into the open.
They make it back to the van and set off, though after rounding a corner at speed they hit a tree and the 4×4 is plunges back into the waterway. With the car submerging, they see the same giant crocodile coming towards them. As the vehicle sinks they manage to swim free, but an injured Yolanda lags behind as they make for the shore. Jen shoots at the creature using Cash’s glove box gun, but as Yolanda finally reaches shallow water the crocodile rises up and grabs Jen. Pulled underwater, there’s a gunshot, and blood. Jen emerges victorious, while the dead monster sinks to the river floor.
The women wade to the edge and we can only hope that they make it back to the city and bring up Yolanda and Eric’s baby together. (I did wonder if the crocodile in the water is meant to be a metaphor for the elephant in the room — the tangled relationships of the four — especially as it’s the “wronged woman”, Jen, who defeats it and has the power to forgive and move on. That doesn’t explain poor old Viktor though, who has the worst time of anybody.)
Maybe in 20 years there’ll be a sequel where the now-grown baby comes back to seek revenge on the offspring of the giant crocodile for killing both his/her possible dads. They can call it Abyss2 and our hero can have a syndrome where they sneeze when under stress, alerting the crocodile to their whereabouts at times of great peril. Or add in an exploding volcano instead of a storm and call it… CROC-ATOA!
Our film club rating:
Croc of sh*t or captain caveman? Sorry, spelunkers, but the film club deems Black Water: Abyss to be bad-bad.
Black Water: Abyss is, at the time of writing, streaming on Netflix.Amazon UK Amazon US
Check out our other film club watches, from Dog Soldiers to Skyfire and much that is worse in between.