The Abyss (1989)

A notoriously difficult film to make, the first to show off James Cameron’s obsession with the depths of the ocean. Lead actor Ed Harris still refuses to talk about it to this day. It’s one of three Cameron films that hasn’t seen a home media release in decades. The Abyss, like most of his flicks, earned its notoriety.

"a terrific, claustrophobic, rising dread tale"

This film explores the concept of USOs (Unidentified Submergible Objects). A US submarine, carrying a nuke, disappears after an encounter with an aforementioned craft. A SEAL team is sent to DEEP CORE, an underwater deep sea drilling installation, manned by a rag-tag team of specialists led by Bud (Ed Harris), to retrieve the nuke before the Soviets do. Lindsay (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the engineer who built the rig, insists she come with them—she’s also Bud’s soon to be ex. Added to which, a massive storm approaches the area, right when Lindsay has an ‘encounter’ in the depths. With conflicting agendas, major damage befalls the rig. The SEAL team captain (Michael Biehn), experiencing the onset of deep-sea narcosis, wants to accelerate his mission but is warned things are not safe to proceed. Of course, he does proceed anyway (rather psychotically), and things go to hell in a hand basket. With half the personnel dead, strange and otherworldly visitations, the installation a broken, flooded mess, and sliding ever closer to the titular abyss, can Bud save the day, discover the mysteries and get out alive?The Abyss (1989)

This was a terrific, claustrophobic, rising dread tale. Harris may have hated every moment of the shoot, but his performance is compelling as hell. There is a great mix of personal and existential stakes and the sheer number of external pressures on the survivors keep you glued for the duration. All the cast are likeable, from co-star Mastrantonio to the supports. Michael Biehn turns in a career best as the dangerous and paranoid SEAL team leader (a role he has played in several derivations, but this is his finest incarnation.) I enjoyed the theatrical cut; however, Cameron got a chance in the late 90s to complete his original vision, adding an effects heavy ending and far more character beats throughout. It’s a winner cut, especially for character development. Both cuts are included here.

Of course, this movie, like most Cameron flicks, showed a new jaw-dropping effect—a photorealistic water tentacle—which made the industry sit up and take notice. Back to the Future composer Alan Silvestri delivers a complimentary score that is ethereal, beautiful and foreboding all at once.

This is one of my favourite Cameron flicks. It’s a crime that it has taken this long to bring it back to home media. On a big-arsed modern TV, or projector, you are in for a sumptuous looking night at the movies. A welcome, if divisive, and very long overdue arrival indeed.

5/5 stars


The Abyss (1989)

4k details divider

Ultimate Collector's Edition / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital 4K

Home Video Distributor: Disney / Buena Vista
Available on Blu-ray
- March 12, 2024
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; French: DTS-HD HR 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Audio descriptive
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback


This native 2160p scan, like the other two Cameron releases, is gonna wow some and right royally piss off purists. To break it down simply, this no longer looks like a film that was shot in 1988. Its AI-assisted clean up has diminished the filmic grain to almost non-existent, but again, I must stress it isn’t simply scrubbed out. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say this was probably the last of these films to be mastered with this new system, as it seems more refined than the other three.  It’s artificial looking, but the underwater set flick actually benefits from this hyper detailed, overly crisp looking picture. The Dolby Vision/HDR10+ really makes a meal of the visuals, delineating the 7,000 tones of blue perfectly with rich details and nuance (note: colour timing has shifted toward teal.) Faithful to the original cinematography this is not. Up to the challenge of modern set-ups it slays it. Whether that’s a good thing will depend on your lean.


This is a reason to buy it! Dolby ATMOS! 7.1 channels of glorious, immersive, thumping, beautiful sound. This mix delivers on all channels: crisp and nuanced dialogue, base-heavy, pant-wetting action sequences, and masterful environmental and directional effects throughout. All three of these Cameron discs hold the wow, when it comes to sound. The Abyss is perfection incarnate.


Yeah, they sprang for some new docos! They both run less than half and hour, but involve Cameron and producer Heard in informative segments. The ‘Special Edition’ DVD was packed with documentaries and supplementals and most of them are included here (on the included blu-ray). You also get both versions of the flick in 2160 and 1080p respectively. Both versions revised to the new look of course. A slipcover—as is standard with US new releases—with new (meh) photoshopped art and a digital copy.


  • None

Special Features:

  • Deep Dive: A Conversation with James Cameron
  • The Legacy of The Abyss
  • Making The Abyss
  • Archives

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite 4K UHD Grade

4/5 stars

Film Details

The Abyss (1989)

MPAA Rating: R.
107 mins
: Rob Reiner
William Goldman
James Caan; Kathy Bates; Richard Farnsworth
: Horror | Thriller
This Christmas there will be... Misery.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You want it? You want it? Eat it! Eat it till ya choke, you sick, twisted fuck!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 30, 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 12, 2021.
Synopsis: After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.


The Abyss (1989)