Killer Mermaids and Campy Characters

Author: Mira Grant

Imagine is a cheesy company known for their low budget horror films and spooky mocumentaries. Their ill-fated voyage on the Atargatis is just another such venture only slightly authenticated by some geeky scientists. The project? Go to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench and talk some shit about scary mermaids. Nothing is going to happen, so the film crew is ready to give it that B-movie flair and add this little fake mocumentary to their archives. Only this time, someone was inadvertently right. Something does live out in the depths of the trench, and it’s hungry.

Victoria “Tory” Stewart cannot get over her sister’s sudden death on the Atargatis. She is mad. She wants Imagine to pay. And whatever creature lurks out in the deep, well, she wants it to pay too. When Imagine gets together another crew to find out what really happened, Tory is ready to go. It’s her only chance for answers and revenge.

Into the Drowning Deep has a fantastic monster – simply one of the best renditions of “sirens” (yeah, that’s right, not mermaids) I have ever seen. It also has one of the most stereotypical, boring crews to ever pepper the pages of a horror book. And so, it’s a mixed bag, interspersing creative scenes of creature feature gore and legend with unrealistic diatribes between stilted characters. In the end, the characters ruin the clever plot. The monsters, despite how much we root for them, can’t salvage this gory little shipwreck.

Our first and most irritating character is Tory. Despite being a scientist, her sole focus is a weird revenge on an animal that cannot possibly understand her human motives. It doesn’t really resonate for a scientist at all. There is a brief amount of curiosity on her part at encountering another intelligent life form, but her one-track revenge is so utterly ill-timed and counterintuitive that it wrecks her entire character arc.

Enter her romance as well. Olivia Sanderson, the onboard journalist, has taken the place that should rightfully belong to Tory’s sister (if she was still alive). So, when sparks fly between Tory and the autistic newscaster, we expect some awkwardness. After all, Tory is all about getting revenge for her dead sister and this woman is living her sister’s dream, in her sister’s place. But this is just a brief bump in the road, barely worth mentioning, and Tory soon gets down with the budding romance and insta-I-would-die-for-you relationship that follows. Eye roll.

Our other characters are little better. We have the fighting husband and wife duo who run the venture and know the low down on what really happened. They love each other still (of course) and through fate are thrown together on this final voyage, doomed to show affection only through angsty arguments and the predictable self-sacrifice and last-minute avowals.

We also have a pair of killers for hire (the backup). They are looking to hunt their ultimate trophy while only just controlling their sociopathy through the killing of human-like animals. Their big game hunter, love-each-other-and-love-death motif is the staple of many low budget sci-fi and horror flicks. Nothing new here.

We also have an ex-boyfriend who can’t get over himself and wants to prove his worth, damn the cost. We have some Jurassic Park like engineers who didn’t bother to put the safety precautions into place for this voyage. And we have a triumvirate of twins, two of whom are deaf, that just so happen to have cornered the market on various levels of expertise and can’t hear the goopy monsters sneaking up on them.

Obviously, the author tries for diversity in her cast, but each character is much like the other. Their concerns, weaknesses, strengths, and their dialogue could all be taken directly from a late-late movie. Their actions are flat, unbelievable, and overdramatized. It’s a shame, because the creatures here are great.

The imagination behind the sirens, how they look and operate, how they live, their ultimate purpose – it’s all grade A monster creation. If only the characters could have been less cut-and-paste and more like ordinary, intelligent people caught in a life-threatening circumstance (similar to that first Jurassic Park movie where both the characters and the rampaging monsters were the stars and complimented one another). Alas, despite the promise, I was relieved to finally finish this book. Good idea, very bad delivery.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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