Two Japanese tourists are wandering around the forests of Northern Australia, lost and unable to get their bearings, and beginning to panic a little. Certainly the female half of the couple does when her partner disappears from sight, and she runs around trying to locate him only to fall into a cave that had been hidden from view by the foliage. She gives herself a nasty break in her leg by plummeting, and sees her boyfriend lying next to her in the water, inert - but something else is there too, ready to take advantage of their ill fortune. Later, a pair of Australian couples will be heading out to the same place in the hope of going underground for a holiday adventure...
Director Andrew Traucki had gone rather quiet between this follow-up to his biggest hit and his previous work, a gap of seven years or so, and perhaps it was indicative of the state of the film industry that in all that time the only project he could get funded was essentially a retread of his past glory. That said, he had proven himself capable of getting the requisite degrees of tension out of a "held under siege by nature red in tooth and claw" movie, and so he did again with a horror suspenser that was not going to break any new ground, but provided a pretty decent killer crocodile flick, much as he had before with the first Black Water back in 2008, his debut feature.
The trouble with something like this was we had seen it all before, literally if you had caught the opener in the series, and it did not offer a massive amount that was new. What was interesting was how reluctant Traucki was to show characters getting chomped once they were trapped under the ground with the croc for company; it happened, but he was a shade too coy for the dedicated gorehounds to really get on board with his emphasis on building slowly to the shocks. That tended to less amass anticipation that something scary was about to occur, and more have that telegraphed far in advance of the shocks themselves, thus dissipating those frights once they popped.
But Black Water: Abyss, which was basically The Descent with a croc, did have one claim to fame, it was the film chosen to reopen British and Irish cinemas after a period of social lockdown thanks to the coronavirus crisis, meaning it was the first movie to be seen under the social distancing regulations for the picture palaces around the country. Why this item was picked appeared to be down to its lack of stars and high concept premise, something to test the waters without risking the reputations of the major players who could have been embarrassed should it turn out that the potential audiences had decided against showing up for the movies after all. That they had been getting all that sort of entertainment through streaming (and discs) may have made them reluctant to leave the house for the silver screen, after all.
It was perhaps unfortunate to use this fairly modest chiller as a test case since it placed a lot of weight on its shoulders, but if you did attend a screening, you would be well aware of what you were in for beforehand, and it was kind of a novelty to watch something that would more normally be viewed on streaming services there, metres high. Kind of like how the drive-ins in the United States were relying on lower budget horror flicks to keep going during the crisis, nobody was going to mistake this for a classic, but hey, it was a killer crocodile movie, what the hell did you want from it?! There were some nice touches in among the less surprising developments - one character is seen fearfully hiding her eyes as one of her pals gets devoured by the reptile in front of her, which you didn't get too often - and the cast of twentysomethings (well, thirtysomethings) were serviceable enough. It was simply that Black Water: Abyss was more memorable for events surrounding its release than it was for the content. Music by Michael Lira.