12 Feet Deep: Is the 2017 Movie Based on Real People?

Directed by Matt Eskandari, ’12 Feet Deep’ is a thriller film that follows a pair of sisters, Jonna and Bree, while they’re stuck inside a public Olympic-sized pool underneath a fiberglass cover. As the sisters try to escape from their ill-fated demise, Clara, a pool worker, shows up and makes matters worse for Jonna and Bree. The film, horror in nature, employs claustrophobia as its basic premise for horror. By doing so, the narrative compels Jonna and Bree’s characters to confront their past and work on their relationship.

Starring Nora-Jane Noone, Alexandra Park, and Diane Farr, the 2017 film primarily focuses on childhood trauma but also touches on themes of siblinghood and suicide. Due to the film’s ability to create suspense and terror in a highly probable and mundane setting, viewers might wonder about the story’s connection to real life. If you’re curious about the same, here is everything you need to know about the true origin of ’12 Feet Deep.’

12 Feet Deep is Entirely Fictional

No, ’12 Feet Deep’ is not based on a true story. The film is penned by director Matt Eskandari and co-writer Michael Hultquist. It revolves around two sisters’ tale of survival as they’re stuck inside an indoor swimming pool overnight with no tangible means of escape. Their predicament is then worsened when the pool Janitor, Clara, arrives and decides to use this opportunity to blackmail money out of Bree in exchange for their freedom.

There aren’t any identical real-life events that mirror the premise of ’12 Feet Deep.’ However, it bears some resemblance to the 2015 teenage drowning incident in Victoria, Australia. During Christmas early hours at the Orbost Outdoor Pool, some teenagers found their 19-year-old friend drowned under the pool covers of the establishment. Although the paramedics arrived shortly after, the girl didn’t survive and died at the scene. The similarities between the Orbost Outdoor Pool incident and the events that unfold within the film’s storyline are evident.

As such, it is possible that Eskandari took inspiration from this real-life story to build the foundation of his film. While talking about the inspiration behind ’12 Feet Deep,’ Eskandari told Daily Dead, “It was a bit of tapping into that instinctual fear and an amalgamation of a couple of different events Michael and I came across while researching the film. Suffice it to say, yes, people have gotten stuck in pools before and under a cover. Usually drunk or very unexpected tragic accidents, but it has happened.”

However, an ill-timed pool entrapment isn’t the only horror that plagues Jonna and Bree throughout the film. A few hours into the sisters’ unfortunate situation, a pool worker, Clara, enters the narrative and brings new troubles for the women. Through Clara’s characters and her crooked actions, the storyline explores innate desperation and its effects on human morality.

By employing Clara as a central antagonist, ’12 Feet Deep’ presents the viewers with a tangible and believable antagonist to direct their resentment towards. “She [Clara] isn’t evil or out for revenge. The idea is that she takes advantage of an opportunity offered to her, and things spiral out of her control.” Eskandari told Pop Horror News while discussing Clara’s character. He also went on to add, “In many ways, she is a sort of dark future foil of Jonna, so it was interesting writing their interactions.”

Character arcs and storylines aside, the overall thematic horror present in ’12 Feet Deep’ may also resonate with many people’s real fears and anxieties. The film drops its characters inside a vast empty pool with only a sliver of breathing space between the water and the cover. As such, it efficiently depicts claustrophobia. Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces, and according to NHS, UK, it can stem from childhood trauma.

Jonna and Bree both grew up with an abusive father who mistreated them as kids after drunkenly returning home. Therefore, although neither character outright displays any symptoms of claustrophobia, their narratives as a whole are built around this fear. Ultimately, ’12 Feet Deep’ is not based on any singular real-life event. It simply features a believable everyday tragedy and builds upon it by doubling down on its claustrophobic implications. Nevertheless, the storylines and character arcs are simply works of imagination from screenwriters Matt Eskandari and Michael Hultquist.

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