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If you want to combine a few phobias to scare the beezums out of people, probably claustrophobia and aquaphobia are a good place to start. Add to that some bickering sisters and a sociopath playing some dangerous games, and well, it’s a recipe for disaster. Or a movie. With 12 Feet Deep (originally The Deep End), that’s what we get, a story based loosely on real events that undoubtedly has a terrifying plot though chooses to take it in a different direction, leaving this less a shocker than an intense human drama.
At a public indoor swimming pool, sisters Jonna (Alexandra Park) and Bree (Nora-Jane Noone) are enjoying the last hours of the day before closing but when Bree realizes she’s dropped her engagement ring in the water, the two dive to the bottom and get stuck under the fiberglass pool cover when the frazzled and eager manager (Tobin Bell) closes up for the extended holiday weekend, not seeing they are still in the deep end. Trapped and no way to break free, they face three days in cold water with no food or water, but salvation seems at the ready when the cleaning lady Clara (Diane Farr) arrives, though wouldn’t you know it, she’s a desperate ex-con and sees herself an opportunity with two caught girls and begins a deadly game of mental and physical torture.
Written and directed by Matt Eskandari, 12 Feet Deep makes good use of the limited set, the pool and the small gap of air between the surface and the pool cover provide plenty of chilling close-ups of the women’s failing faces as they come to grips with their surreal reality. Estranged already, we learn of a bitterness between them stemming from years of opposing paths begun by a tragedy in their youth that haunts them to this day. Bree bears actual scar from it, a reminder to both of where they are from. Naturally, in the water, they must overcome these difference if they are to survive. The muted blue tones of the pool help keep some desperation and the dialogue, which is crucial since there is–by extension of the premise–nearly no action, is mostly compelling, though the entire setup edges a little too close to metaphorical.
While the story is positioned to be a horror movie and there are plenty of tropes in place to make it appear so, it’s actually anything but, a story more about revelation and redemption, the pool and their plight one giant allegory for the girl’s troubling relationship. It goes to the well often and makes no effort to skimp on the parallels but does so with some effective conviction, mostly from two solid performances from the leads that are if not realistic, exaggerated enough to give it some tension. Some choices as the end seem unnecessary however, with the entire character of Clara feeling a bit superfluous.
12 Feet Deep is undeniably engrossing, even as it treads water a little too long, working better as a drama than the thriller it portends to be. Well-directed, especially given the single location, it has several good moments and while the genre is cluttered with lookalikes and wannabes and there isn’t a whole lot that separates this from the pack, there’s enough to make it worth a look for fans of hope of inspiration.
Movie description: 12 Feet Deep is a 2017 drama about a two sisters who must survive an entire night trapped beneath the fiberglass cover of a public pool.
Director(s): Matt Eskandari
Actor(s): Tobin Bell, Diane Farr, Nora-Jane Noone
Genre: Drama, Thriller