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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.31%
Worth A Look43.1%
Average: 5.17%
Pretty Bad: 17.24%
Total Crap: 5.17%

5 reviews, 28 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"A well-crafted and criminally underrated Underwater Ghost Story."
4 stars

Below cost about $40 million to produce. (I say 'produce' only, because Dimension didn't spend a nickel on 'prints' or 'marketing' - but more on that in a moment...) It was directed by David Twohy, who'd just come off the rather profitable Pitch Black and the very-popular-on-DVD flick The Arrival. It was co-written by a great filmmaker named Darren (Requiem for a Dream) Aronofsky, the final script being a succesful amalgam of underwater submarine intensity and creepily waterlogged ghost story. There was a great trailer put together, the movie fans started to get a little excited... and then...

Thud. Dimension dropped the thing like the proverbial sack of potatoes. A move that cost about 40 mill ended up debuting on 168 screens, and it grossed just over $600,000. Now WHAT kind of moviemaking logic is that? What could possibly have inspired Bob Weinstein and his Dimension thinktank to jettison a movie so dismissively?

Common opinion is that Kathryn Bigelow's K-19: The Widowmaker is what sunk Twohy's battleship. Released just three months earlier, the Harrison Ford Turkey Sub grossed about $13 million...and this was a movie that sucked about $130 million from Paramount's coffers, all told. Not a pretty return on ones investment.

So logically the Dimensioneers figured: that movie had a submarine in it, and it was a huge money-loss...ergo, our submarine movie is also guaranteed to flop! Ack! Drop it into 200 theaters, thereby meeting our contractual obligations (in the smallest way imaginable), forget any sort of marketing campaign, and just pray that the geeky horror fans like the movie enough to give it a nominally proitable cult following. This approach to distribution makes absolutely no sense to me, but then again I don't work for a big movie studio so what do I know? (I do know that Dimension did pretty much the exact same thing with a movie called Equilibrium, which I found equally annoying.)

But obviously I offered up all that blather because I like Below. (I certainly wouldn't expend all that trivial jibber-jabber for a flick that I don't give a wet slap about.) Although best described simply as a "Haunted Submarine" flick, Below craftily transcends such an obvious label. It's creepy and dank and claustrophobic and laden with great performances from familiar character actors. It's got a palpable sense of intensity, a deceptively clever screenplay, and a slick handful of ugly dispatches - just to keep the Gorehounds happy.

The Serlingesque plot sees an American submarine crew as they chance upon a crippled vessel and manage to bring about a trio of survivors. To divulge much more would be a disservice to the spoilers found on the back of the DVD case; do yourself a favor and see movies like Below without too much fore-knowledge. The twists are some of the best parts, and no movie should have those twists ironed out before the movie even starts. Suffice to say that something supernatural has perhaps hitched a ride aboard the U.S.S. Tiger Shark...or perhaps it's just a case of good old-fasioned underwater cabin fever.

Either way, Below is a way-above-average entry to the pantheon of Haunted XXXX movies. The relatively no-name cast is strong across the board, though Bruce Greenwood (as the tortured Lt. Brice) is the easy standout. The lovely Olivia Williams acquits herself quite well, particularly considering she's the only female in a cast over-stuffed with macho male monkeys.

Ultimately, Below is one of those sincerely satisfying-but-not-brilliant little movies that frequently pop up on cable, grab you effortlessly for 90-some minutes, and then leave you wondering why you'd never even heard of the movie before.

I may not know a whole lot about how to market and release a movie as low-key and seemingly unsexy as Below, but I do know a well-crafted and criminally underrated Ghost Story when I see one.

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originally posted: 04/29/04 15:44:47
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User Comments

2/29/20 Mike Excellent film, severely underrated. Worh seeing. 5 stars
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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