Horror War
Below
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Dir: David Twohy
Star: Matt Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R1
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It is the middle of World War II and the submarine U.S.S. Tiger Shark picks up three survivors of a U-boat attack on a British hospital ship. When they dive to avoid a German destroyer a series of bizarre accidents begin to happen. Could this have something to do with the new passengers, or maybe it has something to do with the submarines missing captain. Events take a turn for the terrifying as the crew begin to die.

This is the film you get if you cross U571 with The Others. It takes the current trend for ghost stories and adds a World War 2 setting. You would think that horror and war would be popular genres to combine in films. I mean all of that death must make for a great horror film or ghost story. Well you may be surprised to learn that they are relatively few on the ground. The most well known of these are the relatively obscure The Keep, and the more recent The Bunker. Well ensuing the "The" moniker we now have Below.

The film opens with a superb ariel shot of a glittering sea as a Catalina flying boat fly's into shot from below. No it isn't CGI, its real, and its most effective in introducing the survivors. It also provides a counterpoint to the claustrophobic dark scenes that are to come. This stylish direction is maintained throughout the film, as David Twohy yet again admirably displays that he really knows how to make a scene work. Watch how he effortlessly introduces the crew by following the rumour of the rescued survivors throughout the submarine. This is a great idea that saves a load of pointless exposition.

Once the credits finish its straight into the action, and the standard "there's a destroyer coming dive, dive, dive" type scenario. Panic dive, check. Red lighting and running silent, check. Propeller noises and depth charges, check. Yes, people we are in Das Boot territory, and yes this film does it well. However despite the fact that the unexploded depth charge rolling down the ship is cool, all of this is now rather cliched. Thankfully we quickly move on as events take a turn for the spooky.

Dark secrets and strange occurrences start to be uncovered as the tension is ramped up nicely. For a while things are really scary culminating in the trip outside for the divers. The cast of largely unknown Americans and jobbing British actors are well up for this, and do a good job of increasing the tension further. Matt Davies (looking for the world like a young Cary Elwes) is adequate in the lead role, although Bruce Greenwood is wooden as the commanding officer. It is down to the Brits to liven things up with good performances from both Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher. It was also nice to see Auf Wiedersehen Pet's Moxey (Christopher Fairbank) getting a meatier role. Best of the lot is Olivia Williams who is believable and beautiful (a sort of Liz Hurley that can act). Although in the end they all play second place to the plot and effects.

As the film moves on the Germans are forgotten and the a very effectively used effects come into play. The submarine is a nice mix of model, set, CGI, and a real life submarine. The ghost effects on the other hand are never too blatant and wisely resist the urge to go for a "monster". This way they are effective and scary. As we move to the end of the film it is hard not to feel a little disappointed. It is not that the ending is poor its just that all becomes a bit predictable. Instead of building up to a big shock there a too many give-aways so the last ten minutes are just a matter of waiting things out.

Below was all but ignored by the distributor, which is a big shame. While not as good as The Others it is way better than the historical travesty that is U571. David Twohy's direction is top notch, its just a shame his films seem to suffer the same lack of interest by the studios (Pitch Black anyone). Darren Aronofsky's (yes the man behind Pi) script is effective and for most of the film things are really spooky, it's a shame that the ending doesn't have the required ompfh. I recommend you give this film a try it is very good, and it deserves to get the audience that at the cinema it didn't get.

Tagline

Six hundred feet beneath the surface terror runs deep.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Handles the dark scenes very well.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Great soundtrack used to scare you.
Features Deleted Scenes of which th torpedo scene should have stayed in.
Audio Commentary with cast and director. Which unfortunately seems to be more fun for them than for us.
12 min making of featurette
Trailers
Verdict Great film presentation with a few extras of variable quality. Again the studio seems not to care.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home