REVIEW: The Deep Ones (2020)

dir. Chad Ferrin.

Can a modern technology be considered successful if there isn’t a horror film showcasing its worst-case scenario? This time it’s Airbnb’s turn as married couple Alex (Gina La Piana) and Petri (Johann Urb) use it for a beachside holiday: they’re recovering from past pain, having suffered a miscarriage, and are attempting to move towards a more hopeful future. However their break is disrupted when they discover the area is home to a mysterious cult and the ancient sea god they worship.

Taking its title from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, writer / director Ferrin has crafted a homage to old school film-making, the opening leader countdown cutting to grainy mock-16mm. Despite such reverence it also dips into more exploitative waters with excessive nudity from early on, repeated shots devoted to a naked woman fleeing.

Our introduction to the commune comes through Russel (Robert Miano) and his heavily pregnant wife, Ingrid (Silvia Spross). Renting out their home to the leads they speak of a close community where everybody does their bit and helps one another: it seems like a back-to-basics paradise but although something is off, what’s shown lacks atmosphere.

One effective moment however occurs at a party where Petri is introduced to various people: the sequence has a disorientating dream-like quality of inescapable dread, feelings one wishes were more present throughout. It’s also notable in a scene involving Zadok, a grief-stricken woman the locals dismiss as crazy. Portrayed by Night of the Comet’s Kelli Maroney she delivers portentous warnings, but when her trauma is confronted head-on it falls short in what should have been a creepy high point.

Elsewhere La Piana and Urb convey the complicated emotions of the bereaved couple well, and like the rest of the cast are on board for what the film requires: however performances can veer towards the broad end of the spectrum, with the expository dialogue doing no favours.

In terms of the titular monsters, these are brought to life through practical effects rather than CGI – something always worth praising – yet it becomes difficult to believe in what’s shown, the budgetary constraints evident whenever the tentacles move.

The final act also has issues, the story positing an interesting end-point before the build-up is undermined by something which could’ve been shrouded for longer. Even more worrisome is a post-credits scene which centres around a misjudged gag that feels taken from a different film.

Ultimately at its heart The Deep Ones tries to be Rosemary’s Baby by way of Lovecraft, and whether or not it reaches those heights the ambition is worth admiring.

James Rodrigues

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