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New shark movies these days often come with an overwhelming, not to mention frustrating sense of déjà vu. That’s largely because filmmakers have resigned themselves to rehashing the same ideas, over and over again. Something in the Water treads familiar waters, seeing as the characters here also find their vacation in ruins once they leave the beach. To be fair, this movie starts out differently than most others made in recent years; the main character is dealt a rather unfortunate card long before stepping into shark-infested waters. However, nothing that follows ever quite feels as scary or effective.

Something in the Water does what a lot of modern genre movies do now: they preface trauma with more trauma. A deadly shark encounter should be traumatic all on its own, but director Hayley Easton Street and writer Cat Clarke don’t think that’s enough for Meg (Hiftu Quasem) to endure in one lifetime. A year before the present-day story, the main character barely survived a vicious street attack after she and her then-partner, Lizzie (Lauren Lyle), crossed paths with a gang of homophobes. This moment, while coming across as a bit forced into the story, is damn brutal. 

Fast forward and Meg is on her way to a coastal wedding — not her own, though, because she and Lizzie have since split up. The latter felt responsible for the incident; somehow she didn’t expect these strangers to react so violently to hers and Meg’s PDA. Of course, it didn’t help how Lizzie aggravated Meg’s attackers rather than just walk away. So it should come as no surprise how the wedding poses a challenge for Meg. Not only must she go out in public, but now she’s forced to find closure with her ex. Lizzie is in attendance as well, and because the wedding’s bride can’t stand the awkwardness, the former couple is left on an island to talk things out. Which brings the movie to its shark element. 

Die-hard shark-horror connoisseurs will be happy to learn Something in the Water takes itself seriously. Very much so. And beyond the usual illogical behavior assigned to these creatures on screen, the sharks don’t act especially silly. The fish would even be fearsome if they actually had more to do in the movie than be the means to an end.

Those looking forward to pure sharksploitation will be disappointed; the sharks are used sparingly once they finally factor into the story. That underutilization, at the very least, helps limit the use of unsightly VFX (yet the movie isn’t completely devoid of it, either). If anything, though, it’s Meg who’s being exploited here. From that horrendous display of gay-bashing shown early on to then having to witness her friends succumb to either sharks or the sea, Meg suffers an undue amount of physical and emotional pain. The apparent objective is to show humans’ capacity to withstand the worst that life has to offer, but it would be remiss to ignore how awkwardly Something in the Water handles that message.

Something in the Water will show in select theaters and hit Digital May 3.

2 skulls out of 5

Something in the Water

Image: ‘Something in the Water’ poster courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films and StudioCanal.

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