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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 EricDSnider

"Creepy stuff, but the ending needs work."
4 stars

Much of "Below" is spent keeping the characters in the dark, often literally, about what's going on. This is an admirable manifestation of the law in movies that the less we see of the monster/ghost/maniac, the scarier it is.

Eventually, however, you do need to show us something. "Below" procrastinates that moment for too long, and when we finally do discover what's happening, the answer is rather disappointing. It's a case of the symptoms -- the weird noises, the creepy phenomena -- being more interesting than the disease.

Those symptoms, though, are fantastically creepy, and "Below" is an excellent ride until its finale. It is set in 1943 on a submarine -- an ideally claustrophobic place for a horror film, you'll agree; there is literally no place anyone can run to, and director David Twohy ("Pitch Black") exploits that fully. The tight corridors and small round windows, the eerie silence outside, the lack of contact with the rest of the world -- if there's a killer among you, this is the last place you want to be.

The American crew of this sub picks up the three survivors of a hospital ship that was attacked, unprovoked. They are a German, a British man and a British nurse, Claire (Olivia Williams), who doesn't divulge the German's Germanness until it is too late and his actions become suspect.

We slowly learn of what has previously taken place aboard the U.S.S. Tiger Shark. It has only recently come under the stern leadership of the weathered Lt. Brice (Bruce Greenwood), the previous skipper having died in an accident. Capt. O'Dell (Matthew Davis), fresh-faced and eager, doesn't trust the new commander, nor agree with most of his actions regarding the new arrivals.

But the below-deck politics are secondary to the phenomena that begin to occur, involving ethereal voices and ghostly images. Something or someone appears to be targeting the sub; the question is whether the forces at work are supernatural or caused by man -- and, more to the point, what do they WANT?

The uncertainty of what we're looking for gives the film a great advantage. In most horror films, we know approximately what the villain is -- at least whether it's a ghost, a person or a monster -- but here we are struck with the dark realization that it could be ANYTHING. (I am particularly impressed with one hair-raising scene involving a mirror and a transient reflection.) Some seamen repairing an outer part of the submarine are harassed by a school of barracudas -- irrelevant, maybe, but valuable in establishing the general dangers that face these men even without deliberate mayhem being caused by unseen forces.

The acting is heightened, with characters barking a lot of things at each other without a lot of regard for nuance. The dialogue, by Twohy, Darren Aronofsky and newcomer Lucas Sussman, is not as good as it ought to be, given Aronofsky's resume ("Requiem for a Dream"). But maybe it does make sense, given Twohy's past work ("Waterworld," "G.I. Jane").

At any rate, the atmosphere is effectively tense and forbidding for most of the film. The ending may not satisfy you, but you'll have enjoyed most of the proceedings to that point. And if by chance you work on a submarine, you will probably have a hard time reporting to work Monday.

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originally posted: 06/30/03 17:11:51
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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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