Five of the Best Underrated Aquatic Horror Movies
We need more monster movies. Full stop. Luckily, Dread’s The Lake is arriving soon, a rousing Thai creature feature that has the social consciousness of The Host with the toothy thrills of Jurassic Park. The Lake is especially distinct insofar as it narrows its niche even further as an aquatic monster movie. While they’re a rarity beyond the SyFy channel (see: Piranhaconda, even though that movie rocks), they do exist. There’s something innately terrifying about any open body of water. While everyone can imagine a shark or some frenzied piranha beneath the surface, sometimes, what lurks in the dense depths is much more frightening, and much harder to understand.
Here, we’ll be looking at five underrated aquatic creature features for your viewing pleasure (or nightmares, if you’re someone who likes to swim).
While Bruce Hunt’s The Cave might well be conceptualized as The Descent, but worse (and PG-13), the contemporaneous critical reception doesn’t accurately reflect just how much of a blast this subterranean shocker is. A group of scientists and divers embark on an expedition into the caves below the Carpathian Mountains. Intending to find a new ecosystem, they instead find bat-like creatures living deep within its depths. Tracking and offing the group both in-air and underwater, they’re not only well-designed, but terrifying. While The Cave is keen to lose focus, it’s an aquatic horror movie that resists the urge to tread water, instead delivering legions of monstrous chills.
Razortooth isn’t a good movie. It isn’t even The Cave. Seriously, The Cave might as well be The Descent when measured against the computer-generated mess that is Razortooth. Yet, like the best ridiculous creature features, it transcends its origins, thanks mostly to a tongue-in-cheek tone and goofy freaking monster. I first watched it with friends in middle school and I loved it ever since. In Patricia Harrington’s aquatic horrorshow, genetically engineered eels attack the waters of the Florida Everglades. It’s strange that there haven’t been more evil eel flicks since given how ooey-gooey frightening they really are, especially with the heightened size and killer instincts. It’s not good, per se, but it’s a blast, with Harrington successfully managing the requisite B-movie tone and aquatic terror.
For a period of time, I wasn’t even sure She Creature (otherwise known as Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature) existed. I’d seen it young (too young, probably) and had long since figured it to be some kind of Children’s Tylenol fever dream. Not so. Sebastian Gutierrez’s She Creature does exist, and it’s pretty danged good. Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, and Rya Kihlstedt star in this Cinemax original poised to pay tribute to the American International Pictures films catalog. Kihlstedt plays the titular creature, one captured by Sewell’s Angus, an Irish carnie, much to the chagrin of Gugino’s Lily, his wife. They intend to transport her to America, but along the way, bodies start dropping. She Creature is deeply queer and deeply gorgeous. While it takes a while to get going, the killer mermaid mayhem is more than worth the wait.
William Eubank’s Underwater is the most recent release on this list, and it’s also its most recent tragedy. Released in January 2020, Underwater never probed the depths of box office success, grossing an estimated $41 million against a much larger budget. Sure, a Kristen Stewart-led aquatic horror movie didn’t exactly scream huge numbers (though it should have), but for those lucky few who caught it, Underwater wasn’t just good—it was great. I don’t want to spoil the inevitable reveal, though beyond being incredibly staged and shot, Underwater takes some bold, mythic risks with its monsters, and it pays dividends. Right the box office wrongs and watch Underwater ASAP.
The aquatic horrors of Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever might not be as big as some of the others here, though they manage to wriggle their way into the audience’s mind no less effectively. Siobhan (Hermione Corfield), a Ph.D. student, boards a fishing trawler to study deep-sea fauna. Midway through the trip, upon entering an exclusion zone, the ship is stuck by something. The crew presumes it to be barnacles, though as Siobhan endeavors to free the ship, she suspects they’re actually tentacles belonging to something much larger. Though they manage to get free, something else boards the ship, infecting the crew in gnarly ways. Part aquatic horror, part body horror, Sea Fever is an infectiously good (and bloody) time.