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Terrors from the deep
Looking for nautical horror films? Queue this set of thalassophobic nightmares from the world's coldest and darkest oceanic depths.
¡Qué(ue) Horror! is a new bi-weekly email series where I share horror movie recommendations specific to a theme, genre, filmmaker, etc. This series is exclusive only to Deep Cuts subscribers (free and paid).
After kicking off my descent into the world’s nastiest films and videos (#DisturbingDescent), my mind sailed adrift in the unnerving world of thalassophobic horror.
As someone with this very rational fear (whoever considers thalassophobia an ‘irrational’ fear is coked out of their mind), I am terrified by the monsters and secrets lurking beneath uncharted sea depths. And these six films confront those secrets in vivid, interesting ways.
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🦑 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
1961, dir. Irwin Allen | United States
More than 60 years into its initial release, Voyage’s early ruminations about climate change ring truer than ever before. Epic in scale and pretty in aesthetic, this technical beauty of a film sometimes obscures the very real horrors of nature on the brink of collapse.
1975, dir. Steven Spielberg | United States
Steven Spielberg’s seminal film provided a blueprint not only for seaside thrillers of its ilk but also for other adjacent genres, including the slasher. Jaws is as perverse as Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. The film forces upon us the p.o.v. of a blood-thirsty predator, patiently dawdling in the trenches until the perfect time to strike its prey.
1980, dir. Kinji Fukasaku | Japan, United States
Added largely for its topicality, Virus puts up a mirror to our slow march towards self-annihilation. In the film, a global pandemic has wiped out most of the human race, and it’s left to a quarreling group of survivors holed up in miles and miles of Antarctic expanses to decide what to do next.
🌊 The Abyss
1989, dir. James Cameron | United States
James Cameron’s The Abyss is often described by fans as Ridley Scott’s Alien, but underwater. I don’t oppose this comparison; I find the film similarly arresting and unnerving. That’s not due to the aquatic aliens but to the post-Cold War anxieties that bubble up so often that it becomes a greater threat than a lost nuclear sub.
2012, dir. Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor | France, United Kingdom
Between the two sea-bound Leviathan films that exist (this and the aqua-mutant B-movie from the ‘80s), I chose this visceral documentary about marine exportation. Apocalyptic and grotesque in atmosphere, the film argues that the horrors of the deep don’t need to swim up to the surface. We’re already doing it ourselves.
2020, dir. William Eubank | United States
Underwater is such a trigger for one’s thalassophobia. It film follows a deepwater researcher (Kristen Stewart) who has to fend off Eldritch terrors at the foot of the Mariana Trench. Where it pales in storytelling, it makes up for visuals. It’s one of the best-looking underwater horror thrillers I’ve seen yet.