A Claustrophobic Killer Shark Movie Is A Shocking Streaming Hit
47 Meters Down: Uncaged is in the top five most-watched movies on Netflix.
Even before Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws upended the very nature of the film industry, audiences loved to watch killer sharks eat people on-screen. Movies about unwary swimmers (or sailors or hunters or small-town New England police chiefs) have been around since the 1950s, and have never really decreased in popularity. That explains why the 2019 shark survival film 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is currently in the top five most-watched movies on Netflix, despite essentially being a horror B-movie.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the sequel to 2017’s 47 Meters Down, which can be inferred to have been caged at the time. Both films were directed by Johannes Roberts (and co-written with Ernest Riera), but while the first movie had the star power of This is Us’ Mandy Moore, Pretty Little Liars’ Claire Holt, and Stranger Things’ Matthew Modine, the second has only Sex and the City’s John Corbett in a supporting role. This is not to demean the central trio of actors that star in the movie, but it is a clear indication that the sequel is there to cash in on sharks more than stars.
The movie begins with one of the most traditional cinematic catalysts: teenagers moving to a new school. In this case, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged introduces Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx), two stepsisters struggling to bond, especially when the more popular Catherine (Brec Bassinger) decides to bully Mia. Fittingly for a movie about underwater terror, Mia gets humiliated by being pushed into a pool.
After that, father John Corbett tries to bring Mia and Sasha closer by forcing them to go on a great white shark sight-seeing expedition, which is not a great idea for anyone in a movie like this. The two stepsisters bump into Catherine, and long story short, everyone ends up in an ancient underwater Mayan ruined city being pursued by relentless blind sharks, who take out the trapped swimmers with the efficiency of Michael Myers in late October.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged was initially developed as 48 Meters Down, which would put it in the same pantheon of horror movies as 28 Months Later and Rings. Sadly, the title was changed (possibly for search result optimization reasons), and we were all denied a shark movie franchise in which each installment went to increasingly extreme depths in the ocean.
Truth be told, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a perfectly serviceable survival horror film in which we get to see attractive teens fight for their lives against an unthinking, relentless force. We are currently riding a wave of big-budget underwater blockbuster films like Avatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, so it also makes sense that movies like this would attempt to latch on to the trend like remoras under the fin of some larger, more powerful aquatic animal.
Given that 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is doing shockingly well on streaming, it feels very likely we will get at least one more killer shark sequel out of this. Just like the deadly fish itself, shark movies never stop coming.