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Overall Rating

Awesome: 28.07%
Worth A Look43.86%
Average: 5.26%
Pretty Bad: 17.54%
Total Crap: 5.26%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"There's A Reason To Bury This Film"
2 stars

In the weeks leading up to its release, Below has been the subject of much speculation. Bumped from a February 2002 release date to the summer and finally back into October where a wide release suddenly became a limited one with no advertising whatsoever. But why? The film has been getting good reviews around the web and not just amongst the horror freaks. David Twohy had a minor breakout success with the Vin Diesel sci-fi actioner, Pitch Black, a few years back, so there should be some interest in his follow-up, shouldn’t there? Well let me shatter the illusion for you. Below is not a good film.

Pitch Black took on a cultish life of its own beyond the omnipresence of the Diesel factor in the years following. I was not crazy about it. There was a great setup, some interesting characters and a few solid shocks, but once the aliens showed up the film became a surprising bore. Not exciting. Not scary. Basically some darkness and a lot of running with an occasional human getting picked up into the darkness. Twohy was a successful screenwriter (The Fugitive, Waterworld) before getting behind the camera and his 1996 effort, The Arrival, was a great little-seen alien invasion flick with Charlie Sheen. It was full of ideas and kept springing surprises right up until the end. After seeing Pitch Black and now Below, it’s sad to say that Twohy should be sentenced to only making first acts.

Below takes place in August of 1943 during WWII. The USS Tiger Shark has lost its commanding officer at sea in a bizarre accident following the wake of sinking a German U-Boat. Lt. Brice (Bruce Greenwood) has assumed command and one of his first assignments is to rescue a downed British hospital ship. Three survivors are pulled from the wreckage, including Nurse Claire (Olivia Williams) who spends the whole movie wanting to save “just one patient.” Has she never saved one before? As a nurse in the Great War, I would think this is something to look for on the resume. As the Tiger Shark continues to dodge enemy destroyers, she may just get her chance as things are about to get a little spooky underneath the surface.

What we have here is a perfect counterpart to the traditional ghost stories of the past. You think ghosts, you immediately associate haunted houses; big, vast spaces that create isolation and a sense that the terror could be anywhere. Now imagine it in a submarine. A small, dark, condensed area where half the living conditions already consist of trying to identify the creaks and clattles going on outside and within. But, once again, when the ghosts show up, Below becomes an unflinching bore.

One of Below’s major problems is trying to have its arty cake and eat a slice of conventionality too, where one would have been sufficient enough to make it full. The script, co-written by original director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) suggests the possibility of more psychological goings-on (a la Solaris) than the physical (or spirtual) presence of actual spectres. War does crazy things to men. Double that for those in a claustrophobic, no-escape environment and triple that for those with secrets to hide. (Notice that copy of Macbeth?) But you can’t successfully play that angle by showing us the ghosts and then summing it up by trying to make us believe we didn’t see anything.

Chalk this up on the pile of ideas to remake when the day finally comes that Hollywood starts remaking bad films with great concepts instead of classics. Imagine seeing a WWII adventure story coupled with a spook tale. Action and horror can make a great mix and while that’s criticizing a film for what it ain’t, from what I did see in Below, there ain’t much to begin with in the first place. “What if we didn’t sink the Germans, but they actually sank us,” one characters asks. “That would be a nice twist.” Yes, actually that would BE SOMETHING! After the intriguing and rather exciting first act, the film ends up becoming a fourth-rate mystery instead of delivering the tension already inherent in any logline of this story. When will filmmakers realize that screeching flashbacks/visions are cinematically no different than a character’s friend sneaking up behind them and saying “BOO!

Here’s an interesting experiment for the next studio to hire Twohy to write and direct their next project. Shoot the film in sequence. Let Twohy come in, write the first 40 pages and direct it. Then FIRE him and bring in M. Night Shyamalan. Let him do another 40 pages, direct them and then fire HIS ass before he can screw up the ending, which we’ll leave to someone more competent like a James Cameron or a David Fincher. In fact, just let one of them write and direct the whole thing. Then maybe the next time, they’ll have a film worth releasing; one with an intensity so rich, that I’ll jump the next time someone says “BOO!” instead of me standing up and yelling “BOOOOOO!”

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originally posted: 10/18/02 10:35:57
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User Comments

9/02/17 adamwarlock Not bad but obvious and too many characters who look alike. 3 stars
8/29/17 danR Technically superb; but without notepad, and sub blueprints, you're sunk. yup:confusing 4 stars
6/19/11 Daniel Very impressing the first time, and still enjoyable the 2nd and 3rd time. 4 stars
9/08/07 some random hobo the bit with the mirror was excellent ... I love that kind of stuff 4 stars
7/07/07 William Goss Underseen, undersavored supernatural sub thriller has atmosphere to spare. 5 stars
6/28/07 Akbar & Jeff Creepy if you're alone in the dark 3 stars
8/01/06 Naka FANTASTIC! 5 stars
1/03/05 albert great acting by bruce greenwood 5 stars
9/28/04 Dan Good movie 5 stars
9/20/04 Steve Newman Absolutely excellent - going to get the DVD 5 stars
7/24/04 Whatevr Worth watching at least once in your lifetime 4 stars
6/16/04 tatum Solid, with imaginative effects 4 stars
5/25/04 Blakers a great film 5 stars
5/14/04 Stuart confusing??? are you smoking crack or? 1 stars
7/05/03 RAK Damn good, if you think it's confusing, you must of had a labotomy! 5 stars
6/29/03 Jack Sommersby It's intricately crfated but a bit too overdeliberate for its own good. 3 stars
6/13/03 Jerry Pretty crappy 2 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Talk about a multiple-personality disorder--this film was all over the place. 4 stars
5/23/03 Dreamy Damn!! I wanted a movie with more gore 1 stars
5/22/03 Desert Rat Nice special effects, totally lame story! 2 stars
5/19/03 Satan What the hell is this? 1 stars
3/27/03 David Whitehouse The best thriller I've seen so far this year. 5 stars
3/16/03 y2mckay to everyone who dissed this film: Below Me! HA, get it? BeLOW ME 5 stars
3/14/03 Josh Shamefully left for dead by its studio. David Twohy is a great genre director 4 stars
1/27/03 Angolmois Yep, it's boring like hell. Also confusing like hell. You stop caring at the end. 2 stars
12/25/02 stud A GREAT FILM 5 stars
10/19/02 Stacey Harlan Remarkably boring, never delivers the terror it promises 2 stars
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  11-Oct-2002 (R)



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