Still Wakes the Deep review – astonishing artistry can’t quite keep this oil rig horror afloat

June 17, 2024
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As horror locations go, an oil rig is a doozy. It’s remote, claustrophobic on the inside, and no less oppressive on the outside, what with its thrashing storms and merciless seas. But for all its bleakness, there’s warmth and life, a last bit of humanity and light at the edge of the world – and Still Wakes the Deep, the latest from Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture developer The Chinese Room, embraces all these wonderful extremities as its first-person narrative adventure unfolds.

It’s 23rd December 1975, and electrician Cameron McLeary – Caz to friends – has just received a letter from his wife, begging him to come home. There’s tension, we sense, and more to the story we don’t yet know, but it’s soon brushed aside as his duties call. And so begins one hell of a day on the Beira D oil rig, out in the churning North Sea.

Still Wakes the Deep might be playing in the register of horror, but it’s horror with a very human heart, and The Chinese Room holds back the pyrotechnics for a good long while, providing ample time to ease into its richly realised reality before unknowable forces are allowed to take hold. The Beira D might be a grim period nightmare of gaudy fabrics and grubby linoleum, but – in the fag packs and dirty mags, the union missives and National Front fliers, the tragic tinsel trimmings and lovingly recreated baked bean breakfasts – there’s so much life here too. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on an oil rig – or travelled back in time to 1975, for that matter – Still Wakes the Deep’s lived-in spaces reveal so much about the people who inhabit them, even before they’ve properly said hello, it’s easy to buy into the authenticity of its world.

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