Below Review

When is somebody going to scare the shit out of us again?

Will the day arrive when I can watch a movie with the same frightened, uneasy feeling I get when I walk through my darkened hallway at midnight?

Will boyfriends ever again have bruises on their arms from their scared girlfriends' reactions?

These questions zoom into mind after watching David Twohy's Below, the latest in a line of un-scary scary movies released since The Sixth Sense passed the $200 million mark at the box office. You know the kind of film I'm talking about: A lot of thought is put into atmosphere and lighting. There's usually one big, final scary twist after lots of apprehensive build up, which leads us to think that last month's cable bill was scarier.

Below pretty much follows the above game plan, this time the action takes place upon an American submarine during World War II. While chasing the Germans in the Atlantic Ocean, the crew of the USS Tiger Shark picks up three survivors from a British merchant ship, including an attractive nurse (The Sixth Sense alum Olivia Williams. Coincidence!?). Soon after, those odd things take place. A phonograph unexpectedly begins playing. Some on the submarine begin hearing strange voices. A copy of Shakespeare's tragedies seemingly drops from nowhere. Conflicting stories emerge about the sub's original commanding officer and his recent death.

The movie desperately needs something to get over the predictability factor, but there's not much to rely on. Setting the movie in a submarine is a great idea, because there is literally nowhere for the characters to go. Other directors have relied on the "no escape" concept (Die Hard, Under Siege, Speed) for years with varying degrees of success. However, Twohy undermines himself with his directing style. He favors a lot of quick cuts, but often in settings that are dark and tightly framed, thereby destroying any action and suspense.

What's worse, Twohy and fellow screenwriters Lucas Sussman and Requiem for a Dream's Darren Aronofsky needlessly clutter a simple premise. We have numerous, uninteresting characters to contend with, an intro that seems lifted from a different movie, and unexciting, undersea battles with the Nazis. I hate to play guest director, but Below would have been much more effective with minimum material. The fear wouldn't be so distilled. Get rid of the castaways and the Germans. First, detail the Americans triumphant defeat of the Nazis. Then have our boys humming Benny Goodman songs and talking about getting a slice of apple pie with their girls. Finally, introduce the spooky presence and let the bodies start dropping, while identifiable characters (who we've actually gotten to know beforehand) try to end the evil.

If anything else, we might actually get to gasp again.

The DVD adds deleted scenes and a director's commentary to the mix.

Olivia's goin' down.


Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 24th October 2002

Box Office USA: $0.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $605.6 thousand

Distributed by: Dimension Films

Production compaines: Dimension Films, Protozoa Pictures Inc.

Reviews 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 43 Rotten: 25

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Odell, as Brice, as Claire, as Weird Wally, as Coors, as Loomis, as Chief, as Stumbo, as Hoag, Christopher Fairbank as Pappy, Matthew Leitch as Zap