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Deep Fear (2023) Review

Deep Fear, not to be confused with last year’s film about monsters under the streets of Paris, is a call back to the shark films of the past. Not to Jaws or its imitators but to something earlier, like Shark!, Shark’s Treasure, and The Deep where the sharks were a secondary plot element, an added threat for the protagonists to face in addition to other humans.

In the case of Deep Fear that would be Naomi (Mãdãlina Ghenea, Borgia, Zoolander 2) whom we first see showing her co-worker Barney (Ibrahima Gueye, Muñeca Negra, The Life Ahead) how easily a reef shark can be steered away from people. When she surfaces, her partner Jackson (Ed Westwick, Wolves of War, Son of Rambow) that he’s booked another tour. He and Barney are flying ahead to make arrangements, she can sail their boat from Antigua to Grenada and join them.

She plans a leisurely four-day voyage, but Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, and she has to deal with a major storm. She plans to sail around it, which takes her into “dead water” not frequented by ships or other crafts. There she finds a pair of survivors from a boat that apparently didn’t want to be noticed. She rescues Maria (Macarena Gómez, Dagon, The Black Gloves) and Jose (Stany Coppet, Rosemary’s Baby, Red Eagle) who tell her Tomas (John-Paul Pace, Measures, Das Boot) is trapped in an airtight compartment on the sunken vessel.

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Director Marcus Adams (Long Time Dead, The Marksman) and writers Robert Capelli Jr.(Waltzing Anna, Mail Order Bride) and Sophia Eptamenitis (Invincible Summer, What Exit?) give the film a start as leisurely as Naomi’s travel plans with the first half hour being mostly touristy shots. Like last year’s Shark Bait, Deep Fear was actually shot in Malta which is quite scenic so that’s not so bad. They also give us the usual scene of Naomi telling a friend she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to settling down with Jackson. It’s all very standard stuff, though done efficiently enough.

It’s not until Naomi and Jose dive down to rescue Tomas that things get exciting. They free him, but a great white shows up and only two of them make it back to the boat. That’s when the truth comes out. The trio were carrying a small fortune in cocaine which is now at the bottom of the Caribbean, and Naomi is going to help them recover it, sharks or no sharks.

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Unfortunately, the script for Deep Fear never strays far from the template for these kinds of things. Maria has trauma about storms at sea due to her parents drowning in one. She gets off a partial distress call to Jackson, who can’t get the local cop (Shane Rowe, 13 Hours, For Her Sins) to act. “Until she’s been missing for 24 hours, my hands are tied”. So he has to take matters into his own hands.

Even worse is the pacing. After he gets the call, do we cut to Jackson and Barney at the police station? No, the film literally takes the scenic route and gives the viewer a long, multi-cut scene of them motorcycling along the coast road to get there. We get the same thing later while he’s trying to find a way out to her, only now we see the coast by night.

It also misses a perfect opportunity to do something different when the shark bites into a bag of cocaine they’re bringing to the surface. Deep Fear could actually have had an actual Cocaine Shark, but instead, the shark just shrugs it off with no effect.

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That may be the biggest disappointment of them all, because for once the CGI shark in a low-budget film actually looks good most of the time. And the underwater cinematography by Mark Silk, who also worked on 47 Meters Down, its sequel as well as Shark Bait, is also top-notch. Unfortunately, the film has a PG, not even PG-13, rating so the couple of attacks we do get are mostly blood in the water and screaming.

With better pacing and a bit more grit, Deep Fear could have been a decent time killer. But it moves too slowly and holds back too much on the action, let alone violence. The result feels like a Tubi original, but with a more talented crew behind the camera.

Deep Fear is available in select theatres and on Digital and VOD Platforms via Gravitas Ventures.

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