31 Days to Scare ~ 12 Feet Deep

The Facts:

Synopsis: Two sisters are trapped under the fiberglass cover of an Olympic sized public pool and must brave the cold and each other to survive the harrowing night.

Stars: Nora-Jane Noone, Alexandra Park, Diane Farr, Tobin Bell

Director: Matt Eskandari

Rated: NR

Running Length: 85 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: To this day, I’m thankful for my parents starting me in swim classes when I was six months old because it helped me get comfortable with the water.  An active swimmer my entire life, I’m confident I could hold my own if there was a water problem to be solved, though drowning remains one of my out and out biggest fears.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always been attracted to movies set in the ocean or bodies of water, there’s that sense of danger in the back of mind at all times which keeps me on high alert.

A few years back I was scouring the offerings at the Twin Cities Film Fest for something off the mainstream radar.  What I have come to enjoy about our local film festival is that while the programming has snagged some top anticipated Hollywood films, they have also been able to feature under the radar horror/thrillers that might otherwise go unnoticed.  I make it a special point each year to prioritize these selections above all else and that particular year the premise of 12 Feet Deep caught my eye.  With the 2019 TCFF beginning again, I felt it was a good time to highlight this well-made thriller that stays afloat much longer than I was anticipating.

Two sisters with their own personal baggage have met up at a local pool before a long Thanksgiving weekend.  Competing against each other in the pool and out, Bree (Nora-Jane Noone, Brooklyn) has recently gotten engaged to her boyfriend while Jonna (Alexandra Park, Ben is Back) feels she is lagging behind her sister in many ways.  In a jealous moment, she throws Bree’s engagement ring in the pool just as the manager (Tobin Bell, Jigsaw) is ready to close up for the evening.  Regretting her actions, she dives in to retrieve it with Bree following behind.  Not noticing the girls have entered the pool, the manager activates the pool cover, trapping the girls inside.

With plenty of space to breathe and the shallow end not that far away, this seems like a not exactly life-threatening situation for the sisters to find themselves in….just a very inconvenient one.  As they squabble about how they got there it brings up memories of their youth with their abusive father and questions arise regarding his mysterious death in a fire.  Various attempts to escape are explored but it’s the introduction of another character that truly raises the stakes and gives the film a nice little twist that carries it through to the end.   Now, an Olympic sized swimming pool becomes a danger zone for the two women as they have to tread water to avoid something else at the edge of the pool.

In several ways, the movie doesn’t hold up to high scrutiny.  It gets a little waterlogged as it nears the finish line and a late-breaking malady feels like one bit of peril too many.  Even so, it’s highly watchable and gamely performed by the small cast who believably handle a rather unbelievable set-up. Throughout, director Matt Eskandari and his co-writer Michael Hultquist make enough wise choices that you almost can’t believe the premise works as well as it does.  Claustrophobics may have a tough time with this one but those interested in a compact little thriller should dive right in.

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