The abyssal depths of the ocean can be more terrifying than the void of space; because it’s not that you don’t know what’s lurking in there, it’s that you actually do. There’s something down there. Waiting to drag you down the murky womb of Earth’s primordial origins. Movies that will give you Thalassophobia ought to explain this apprehension well enough.
Thalassophobia is the fear of the ocean or deep and large bodies of water. Because deep down, in the dark crevices of the ocean where sunlight is a luxury, there is both a literal and figurative gaping maw that can swallow you whole if you don’t restrain your land-creature hubris. At the very least, these following movies might convince you that there’s a shark in the pool.
Sphere takes us to the deepest part of the ocean, where a team of scientists discovers an alien spacecraft. What could be more unsettling for thalassophobes than the idea of exploring the pitch-black abyss of the ocean floor, only to stumble upon mysterious and potentially malevolent extraterrestrial forces lurking in the depths?
Truth be told, they didn’t even need to add that alien vessel into the mix. The deepest parts of Earth’s surface are scary enough. It’s also worth noting that Sphere is an adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel of the same name. The author is famed for his sci-fi horror and has penned icons such as Jurassic Park.
This film has it all for Thalassophobes: giant squids, killer jellyfish, poor visibility, and a volatile Samuel Jackson stuck inside a tight deepsea research base.
In Below, paranoia and superstition run rampant aboard a WWII naval submarine after the crew rescues survivors from a British hospital ship. The combination of the cramped, confined space of the submarine and the haunting events that follow, including disembodied voices and hallucinations, creates an atmosphere of dread.
Even the toughest of navy men aren’t exempted from the horrors of the depths. One by one, the crew members begin to disappear. It’s worth watching alone for its novel premise, as not many horror or mystery films are set in WWII.
Open Water (2003)
Open Water is loosely based on a real-life story of a couple stranded in the open ocean after their scuba diving group leaves them behind.
The fear of isolation and vulnerability in the vast, unforgiving ocean is a central theme in this film. Floating in the endless expanse of the ocean, with no land in sight and the constant threat of sharks lurking below, can be nightmarish indeed.
And in such a crisis, the couple finds that their anxiety can also be their biggest enemy. It’s slow in some places but pacing also captures the essence of the true story in which it was based.
47 Meters Down (2017)
47 Meters Down plunges viewers into the depths of the ocean once again as two sisters find themselves trapped in a shark cage that’s plummeted 47 meters below the surface. It’s not that deep compared to the most unsafe deep-sea expeditions, but it has sharks. Enough said.
The combination of the crushing water pressure, dwindling oxygen, and the relentless presence of great white sharks creates a rather hopeless scenario.
If anything, the movie is a cautionary tale on choosing your vacation spots wisely next time. Maybe somewhere sharks aren’t present?
In Underwater, a drilling operation on the ocean floor turns deadly when an undersea earthquake strikes. The crew must then navigate the dark depths while being pursued by unknown creatures.
It’s one of the most recent movies right now and even features a stellar cast including Kristen Stewart. This modern Lovecraftian horror movie serves as a grim reminder that water isn’t always the universal liquid that will keep you alive, especially if surrounds you.
Jaws, although partly set in shallow waters, is a classic example of a film that taps into thalassophobia.
The terror induced by the film doesn’t come from the beach but from the vast, open ocean where the huge Great White killer shark roams. The plot for this Steven Spielberg movie is simple enough—a tourist destination experiences its most violent and prevalent shark attack yet.
Jaws was such a trendsetter, that it became a standard for all the shark and deep sea horror B-movies after its release.
Das Boot (1983)
For Das Boot, there’s no physical monster. This WWII psychological submarine movie employs the most dangerous horror monster of all, man’s own treacherous psyche.
The old movie offers a gripping portrayal of life aboard a German U-boat during WWII. The film’s portrayal of the cramped, claustrophobic conditions inside the submarine and the constant threat of depth charges and enemy ships creates an atmosphere of relentless tension for all the men involved.
Living and fighting in the confines of a potentially submerged grave beneath the ocean’s surface can prove to be more than adequate to drive the common man insane.
The Abyss (1989)
For a more bonafide horror experience, The Abyss sees a team of deep-sea oil drillers encounter mysterious and otherworldly forces beneath the surface. The film’s depiction of the immense pressures and the unknown lifeforms lurking in the abyss is straight out of a thalassophobe’s worst imagination.
Think of it as The Thing except it takes place underwater which is worse since you can’t see anything and there’s nowhere to run (or swim). The film also toys around with the dilemma of being stuck underwater; is it better to be alone or to be with creatures who can kill you?