The Requin. The Reef: Stalked. The Black Demon. Now Something in the Water. I’m reaching my breaking point with shark attack movies that are too distracted by other plotlines to deliver on their promise: shark attacks. Hayley Easton Street’s Something in the Water might be the biggest offender listed, taking roughly thirty minutes until the first shark-related incident, then another fifteen(ish) minutes for the first of frustratingly few substantial shark spottings. Cat Clarke’s screenplay tries to establish poignant storytelling about hate crimes, broken relationships, and debilitating traumas, but in doing so, forgets about the massive shark plastered all over the film’s marketing materials. Street and Clarke aim to elevate shark cinema with emotional throughlines, but sink the entire project with an alarmingly imbalanced approach.

The film opens with same-sex couple Meg (Hiftu Quasem) and Kayla (Natalie Mitson) strolling home one night, publicly displaying their love, when Kayla antagonizes passing bigots who in turn violently beat Meg senseless. A year later, we catch Meg fresh off a flight, alone, listening to a self-help relaxation app in the airport. She’s decompressing before her bestie Lizzie’s (Lauren Lyle) exotic destination wedding, still rattled by the opening scene’s incident, and to make matters worse, Kayla is who the group sends to escort Meg from the airport. A night of booze and karaoke smoothes tensions over a tad until the next morning, when the party strands Meg and Kayla on an off-coast island with no phones to try and force a reunion. Meg and Kayla must reunite with the bridal party sans GPS devices, hopefully after sparking old flames. Only then can everyone think about boating back to the resort — and that’s finally when the shark action begins.

It’s a mouthful of an introduction to a fin flick that shoehorns psychological wounds that dominate the first act. Street’s aiming for something like Bridesmaids meets Jaws but is woefully off that far superior mark. Releases like The Shallows and 47 Meters Down prove how aquatic horror films can engage empathetic storytelling while delivering shark attack thrills early and often, which Something in the Water miscalculates. There’s an overwhelmingly cumbersome amount of establishing material without attention to pacing, like audiences pressed play on the wrong movie. It’s almost as if Street and Clarke are actively protesting their own choice to make a shark-centric thriller, selling the meat of Something in the Water immeasurably short.

With a forgiving yet restrictive sub-90-minute length, Street struggles to execute anything beyond generic character arcs as Lizzie’s bridesmaids face certain death. For the film’s surprisingly dour and vitriolic beginning, it has shockingly less to say about the implications of Lizzie’s disappearance from her wedding or free-spirited Cam (Nicole Rieko Setsuko), the group’s defacto “hot mess” who makes faces during the groom’s speech and such. The focus stays on Meg and Kayla, exhaustively so, for an impotent examination into the lingering effects of what both partners endured that fateful night. 

If you sacrifice emphatic shark usage in your shark movie, the reason better be bulletproof. Something in the Water is anything but rehashing familiar character beats we’ve seen a billion times in other indie shark flicks that attempt the same toothless blueprint.

As for the shark-based horrors we do get, there’s nothing to rave about. Street’s underwater predator is rarely seen outside a few dorsal fin shots, a top-down helicopter perspective where the animal darts toward Meg, and a single above-water leap that’s an ugly pixelation. Any deaths that occur are off-screen, staining mesmerizingly blue island waters red as an actor splashes about for a few seconds. There’s not even an attempt to render visual shark-on-human feeding that’s conveniently out of frame. Not to mention, the film’s shark-attack logic is comically flawed, like how a woman standing waist-high in shallows has a chunk bitten out of her calf without anyone seeing the shark. There’s astonishingly little effort put into the hows and whys of its survival scenario, as if the story itself is adrift with no idea how to bring everything home.

Something in the Water is a stray thought of a feature film. Its scattered components feel equally incomplete, smashed together without suitable cohesion. There’s nothing exhilarating or groundbreaking about its approach to the subgenre outside beautiful palm-tree-adorned backdrops, nor does it achieve minimal praise for nailing the foundational bits. Compared to roaring competitors like The Shallows or 47 Meters Down, it’s a faint whisper of scary-sharky entertainment. Tones clash, suspense is scrapped, and there’s almost zero momentum — we’ve got another floater.

Movie Score: 2/5

  • Matt Donato
    About the Author - Matt Donato

    Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Critics Choice Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.