Aussie Flight Disaster Film 'Deep Water' Shelved Over Eerie Resemblance to Missing Malaysia Flight

Malaysia Airlines - H 2014
AP Photo/Vincent Thian

"Deep Water," a loose follow-up to hit horror movie "Bait 3D," tells the story of a flight that mysteriously crashes into a remote stretch of the ocean on its way to China.

Arclight Films says it's putting preproduction of its upcoming film Deep Water on hold due to some uncomfortable similarities between the project and the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.

"Out of sensitivity to the Malaysia flight situation, we've decided to put it on pause for now," Gary Hamilton, managing director of Arclight told THR at the Asian industry tradeshow Filmart in Hong Kong.

Deep Water tells the story of a flight that mysteriously crashes in a remote stretch of ocean on its way to China. The crash survivors then have to fend off killer sharks.

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The film's tagline in early promotional materials reads: "Survivors of a plane crash face terror beyond reckoning as the plane is starting to sink into a bottomless abyss and soon discover they're surrounded by the deadliest natural born killers on earth."

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from civilian radar screens a little less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board. No confirmed sighting of the plane or its remains has been made since.

It's not the first time that Deep Water's director, Alister Grierson, has helmed a movie marked by a bizarre art-imitating-life quality. Sanctum (2011), the project for which he is best known, is about an underwater cave-diving exhibition that turns into a watery, heart-pounding catastrophe. It was released in Australia two weeks before Queensland and Northern New South Wales were hit by devastating floods in 2011.

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Originally developed as a sequel to shark horror flick Bait 3D -- which became a surprise hit in China in 2012 after it was sold to the territory on a flat-fee basis, grossing $24.7 million in its first three weeks of release -- the project received development funding from Screen Australia and was targeted for a budget of $25 million. The writers of Bait 3D, Shayne Armstrong and Shane Krause, drafted a sequel script; but the project later morphed into Deep Water, with Grierson boarding as director along with additional writer Terrance Mulloy. It was expected that the film would again aim for a China release -- or even a Chinese co-production partner.

Arclight sources say they are fast-tracking development of a sci-fi adaptation of the classic Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness while they put Deep Water on ice while waiting to see how the Malaysian flight situation unfolds.

Deep Water is the second APAC-based film project to make a pivot out of sympathy for those impacted by Flight MH370.

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Chinese director Vincent Zhou's 3D action thriller Last Flight, starring Ed Westwick and Zhu Zhu, has toned down its marketing campaign in response to the missing Malaysian plane. The film tells the story of an old Boeing 747 that takes off for its last red-eye flight from a small Pacific island and is hit by "unusual events." While the passengers panic, the captain and the chief flight attendant investigate and try to regain control of the plane.

The film's producer and distributor, Shanghai Media Group, canceled the glitzy March 21 premiere event it had planned for Beijing, where many of the missing passengers were from. Reps from the company tell THR they instead decided to roll out the film in Shanghai, Nanjing and Shenzhen with more understated opening events.

Clifford Coonan and Pip Bulbeck contributed to this report.