Review: “Sanctum” (2011)

Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. See, I went to a screening of the new 3-D underwater action thriller Sanctum because it seemed to have the ingredients of a movie that I’d enjoy. I mean, how could you go wrong with a movie about a bunch of athletic, frequently wet guys (and gals) trying to swim their way to safety through previously undiscovered underwater terrain? There will be floods! There may be sharks! And all in Amazing 3-D! It simply must be thrilling!

And yet, somehow Sanctum manages to be as exciting as being stuck on a rainy fishing trip with those uncles you have who have been locked in an endless pissing contest since adolescence and manage to ruin everyone’s Christmas, every single year.

This underwater cave-diving adventure manages to combine two of my favorite action-horror movies – The Descent and Deep Blue Sea – without capturing any of the magic of either. The basic plot and structure are actually strikingly similar to both of these earlier films, only the filmmakers opt to leave out a few small details – namely, the sharks, the crawlers, and the compelling emotional drama.

What does that leave?

A bunch of soggy diapers rattling around in caves and sniping at one another for almost 2 hours.


Yaaaaaay more water.

I do realize that this movie is based (no idea how loosely) on actual events, so I can accept that they weren’t able to just toss in some genetically-enhanced sharks or sub-ocean spacecrafts to jazz up the proceedings a little. And yes, out of respect for those real-life individuals who did die trying to escape the cave-flood, they had to handle things with a certain degree of sincerity. But I’d argue that reducing these people to cardboard action-movie cutouts is far more of an insult than suggesting that the endangered divers very well may have had an encounter with some aquatic dragons or a mermaid or two.

Anyway, as lead spelunker Frank, Richard Roxburgh serves some Sean Bean/Daniel Craig Realness and isn’t terribly hard on the eyes, all told. Resident twink Rhys Wakefield (as Frank’s son, Josh) is Coppertone-adorable to the point of inducing nausea. Ioan Gruffudd is patently ridiculous in the generic, unplayable Evil American Millionaire role.

Aside from some 3-D mancleavage, an impressive amount of water, and a few unintentionally funny moments near the end when characters start getting “real” with one another (read: pulling every survival movie and father/son drama cliche out of the book), this movie is completely unwatchable.

If you’re considering checking it out for thrills, visual splendor, or – like me – the chance of getting a glimpse of a 3-D shark that doesn’t resemble a stalled Volkswagen bus…

Jaws 3D

…take my advice and don’t bother. The pretty scenery and ever-impending peril aren’t enough to save Sanctum from Stankdom.


Sanctum is Rated R for scenes of waterlogged peril, the cheesiest dialogue I’ve heard in years, and just being really, really bad.

Related posts:

  1. Review: “The Rite” (2011) Before I get into reviewing the religious horror-thriller The Rite,...
  2. Trailer Trash: “Mother’s Day” (2011) Of all the horror subgenres, the home invasion movie might...
  3. Trailer Trash: “Insidious” (2011) Literally two nights ago I settled in to re-watch the...
  4. Review: “Night of the Demons” (2010) When you think about movies that aren’t totally terrible candidates...
  5. Review: “Darkness” (2002) Welcome to This Old Dark House. If Trading Spaces had...
Tags: ,

About Buzz

Buzz created in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.