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Deep Fear review

Posted in Movie Reviews by Neal at 13:44, Feb 24 2024

Deep Fear review by David Gelmini

At this point, there are probably more killer shark movies than there are fish in the sea, so you would be forgiven for initially overlooking Deep Fear. But make no mistake, this is actually a surprisingly human and thought-provoking drama which just happens to also feature killer sharks. Co-writers Robert Capelli Jr. and Sophia Eptamenitis both deserve credit for creating a story which really does place its human characters above the sharks, and director Marcus Adams, who previously helmed Octane, needs to be praised for bringing their innovative script to life.

Mãdãlina Ghenea stars as Naomi, a young woman who almost drowned in a tragic maritime accident which took both her parents. We soon learn that Naomi went on to become a fearless diver who seems to prefer being underwater to being around other people, which explains why she has difficulty maintaining a steady relationship with her boyfriend Jackson (Ed Westwick).

As strange as it may seem for a killer shark film, Deep Fear focuses strongly on character development rather than horror elements, with the first act being almost entirely devoted to allowing viewers to get to know Naomi as a person. Her fear of commitment becomes palpable as we learn that the accident which killed her parents left her with deep psychological scars, making her afraid to get too close to anyone else in case she loses them as well. Ghenea also paints a convincing portrait of a seemingly bold and confident young woman who constantly puts on a brave face to hide her pain, making us hope that Naomi does eventually find the happiness and fulfilment which she so desperately craves. It also soon becomes clear that Jackson sincerely cares for Naomi and that he will do anything to protect her, with Westwick managing to make Jackson into a believingly compassionate individual who just wants to protect the people he cares about.

Things quickly take a turn for the worse when the well-meaning Naomi rescues two survivors who she finds floating in the middle of the ocean, only for her good deed to immediately backfire as she finds that both of the people she rescues are actually ruthless cocaine smugglers. The two criminals immediately take Naomi hostage and force her to try to recover their cocaine from their sunken boat, which happens to be surrounded by sharks. The filmmakers made a bold decision by not introducing the sharks until relatively late into the film, so that the story could unfold at a natural pace instead of hurtling through its paces. And yes, before you ask, there was a line about the sharks consuming the cocaine and becoming high as a result, but this was not exploited or dwelled upon. Rest assured, this certainly is not a parody Cocaine Bear.

The sibling smugglers were named Maria and Jose, and they were respectively played by Macarena Gómez and Stany Coppet. The pair initially came across as relatively one-dimensional criminals who only wanted to make a profit, but it was soon revealed that they both dreamed of leaving crime behind and entering legitimate professions, which would sadly not be possible as their enemies would never leave them in peace. The scene where Maria and Jose discuss their dreams for a better life will actually leave you feeling sympathy for them despite their appalling acts we saw them committing, with Gómez and Coppet both successfully making the terrible human beings they portrayed come across as relatable and sympathetic people.

There were plenty of breathtakingly beautiful underwater shots of the Mediterranean Sea and some spectacular aerial photography of the picturesque Malta landscapes, which were standing in for the Caribbean. At times you really will start to feel like you are watching a BBC nature documentary. The shots of the divers interacting with the sharks were also brilliantly suspenseful, and the CGI which was used to create the killer fish looked incredibly convincing. Deep Fear did not have a gigantic budget, and the folks at Lipsync Post deserving credit for creating such lifelike digital animals despite the limited funds they were no doubt provided with. After viewing Deep Fear for the first time most viewers really will think that the actors were interacting with actual sharks. There was one particularly impressive close-up shot of a shark’s face as it bit into a steel bar, and the twitches of its face and the way its teeth grinded into the metal looked so realistic that it could easily have been footage lifted directly from Shark Week.

Those of you who were hoping for a gorefest will probably be disappointed, because the bloodshed in Deep Fear was infrequent and not particularly graphic. There were occasional shots of people being eaten by sharks and the remains of their mutilated corpses, but nothing too graphic was on display. The overall bodycount was also relatively low, with only a small number of people becoming fish food before the end credits started to roll. However, there are plenty of other, far more gruesome killer shark films to choose from if gore happens to be your key point of interest.

And the abundance of humanity on display will no doubt atone for the relative lack of gore, with Ghenea’s central performance as Naomi and the character’s refusal to surrender in the face of adversity helping to keep viewers engaged until the very end. Although the sharks occasionally took a backseat to the human drama, this is still a film which will leave you hoping that its protagonist does not become dinner for the sharks. Its strong focus on character development over anything else helped to make Deep Fear into one of the best killer shark films to have surfaced in quite some time, and fans of the subgenre need to immediately hunt it down.

Four stars

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