Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Why 47 Meters Down could be the biggest British horror film ever

Obviously it’s not being marketed as a horror film. Or indeed as British. But that’s no reason for us not to celebrate a genuine homegrown success that has the potential to be a huge commercial hit.

Twelve months ago I reviewed Johannes Roberts’ shark thriller 47 Meters Down which I had the good fortune to see at an industry preview. I’ve been following Jo’s career since Sanitarium and, after he upped his game with F, I’ve been seriously impressed by his output. It’s great to see somebody go from shooting micro-budget DTV silliness like Darkhunters and Hellbreeder to name-cast, well-budgeted, well-promoted theatrical releases. And 47 Meters Down will be the biggest yet.

Seventeen years ago, the sole ‘big screen’ outing for Diagnosis (the original, longer cut of Sanitarium, without Uri Geller) was a VHS tape and a projection TV in a Manchester hotel suite. Jo’s latest will open on 16 June across 3,000 US cinema screens courtesy of Freestyle Releasing, part of Entertainment Studios. To put that in context, the last British film to get a release like that was Bridget Jones’ Baby.

Entertainment is putting a huge amount of money behind this release, which means they expect/hope that this will be a big hit, eclipsing last year’s The Shallows and other recent entries in the non-dumb shark movie genre.

Is 47 Meters Down a horror movie? Hell, yeah. The old IMDB lists it as ‘horror/thriller’; a recent Variety story called it “this summer’s open ocean survival horror” and it’s getting coverage on lots of horror websites. So yes, it’s a horror movie.

Is it British? By George, yes. Although it has three American stars, the film was made by a British production company. James Harris and Mark Lane were the producers and their firm is quaintly called the Tea Shop and Film Company. Bournemouth-based Outpost Effects provided the CGI sharks. Where is more British than Bournemouth?

Most of the film was shot in a water tank in England (Basildon, apparently). As The Chamber demonstrated recently (set off Korea, shot in Cardiff), once you’re underwater, your actual location on the globe is irrelevant. An English or Welsh water tank looks no different from any other. That said, the sunny bits of 47 Meters Down on the beach and on the boat were shot in the Dominican Republic. Because, you know, Basildon…

Unused DVD sleeve, from Amazon.
Slightly complicating matters is that 47 Meters Down almost went straight to video. Which is of course not the sign of a poor film (just as a theatrical release isn’t a sign of a good one, which is why Transformers sequels still play cinemas). Dimension were all set to release the film on DVD and VOD, retitled In the Deep (ironically the working title of The Shallows), via Anchor Bay on 2nd August last year. At the last moment, Entertainment offered to buy the rights and Dimension pulled the release, but not before review screeners had gone out. Which is why some people say they have seen the film already.

The IMDB also lists release dates for the Netherlands and Singapore. No word on a UK release yet. I guess it depends how well the movie does in the States.

In terms of British horror films, the over-rated The Woman in Black, which claims to be the biggest-grossing UK frightflick of all time, had a US opening weekend of $20.1M on 2,855 screens. Let’s see if Jo and his team can knock that pompous rubbish off the top spot.

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