2002 - R - 103 Mins.
|Director: David Twohy
|Producer: Sue Baden-Powell
|Written By: Lucas Sussman & Darren Aronofsky and David Twohy
|Starring: Matt Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Holt McCallany, Olivia Williams, Dexter Fletcher
|Review by: James O'Ehley
“Below”, last year’s haunted submarine movie that somehow slipped just beneath the radar at the cinemas, makes for a decent DVD rental.
World War II. An allied hospital ship is sunk by a German u-boat and the only four survivors are picked up by an American submarine soon thereafter. Amongst the survivors is a woman nurse, whose presence is seen as unlucky by some of the more superstitious seamen (no jokes, please). Most of the men however start paying more attention to their personal hygiene.
However, the submarine doesn’t really require a woman’s presence aboard for bad luck: it seems to have had its own string of recent bad luck. Its captain recently died under mysterious circumstances, and the new captain seems woefully inadequate and inexperienced. Also, the sub seems haunted – or is it just the amount of hydrogen released into the air after an encounter with a German destroyer that is causing the men to hallucinate?
“Below”? Well, yeah, featuring a cast of mostly unknowns, it is directed by one David Twohy, who will perhaps be best remembered for having written and directed the movie that put Vin Diesel on the map a while back, namely the very similar “Pitch Black” (2000). Twohy also wrote the screenplay for Kevin Costner’s ill-fated “Waterworld” (1995) and directed the much underrated aliens among us thriller “The Arrival” in 1996.
Better than last year’s similar “Ghost Ship” (about a ghost ship – duh!), Below is the type of thriller that might not appeal to more hardened gore hounds. There isn’t a lot of blood and gore in it, and the movie prefers to get its chills from a more atmospheric approach. Also, CGI effects are kept to a minimum unlike recent horror movies such as “The Haunting” and “Thirteen Ghosts”.
In this sense, “Below” is an almost old-fashioned movie. Not only are the special effects used sensibly, but it is edited and put together in a way that doesn’t treat the audience as if they might have attention deficit syndrome. So no swirling camera movements and music video editing of the sort Michael Bay uses in movies like “Armageddon” to make you throw up in your pop corn due to seasickness.
Its cast of unknowns is effective, and “Below” tries to keep the amount of submarine warfare clichés to a minimum (unlike the recent “U-571”). If the movie has any faults, it is perhaps because it doesn’t employ its atmospheric setting as effectively as it could have.
All in all, an underappreciated little film that would go down well as part of a double or even triple bill on video for an evening’s undemanding entertainment. Watch it last when it’s late and everyone else has gone to bed . . .