Another good movie that no one's heard of. For some reason, 'Below' was put into limited theatrical release, and disappeared before anyone had heard more than a whisper. It played in an everage of 200 screens over three weeks (as opposed to 'Matrix Reloaded's opening count of 3603 screens), and grossed slightly over six hundred thousand. Thankfully, now you have a chance to watch this gem of a movie, courtesy of it's DVD/VHS release.
Directed by David Twohy of 'Pitch Black' fame, and co-authored by Darren Arnofosky who directed 2000's cinematic landmark 'Requiem for a Dream', 'Below' has excellent credentials even before the movie gets started.
Taking place during World War 2, an American submarine has just torpedoed a german U-boat, and surfaces to assess the damage. They're surprised to find a sinking british medical ship, the apparent victim of the U-boat's attack. Taking on three survivors, the Americans continue their mission.
Things begin to make a mysterious turn. Crewmembers begin to hallucinate, and records begin playing at the most inopportune times. The survivors begin to have their suspicions about the current captain (ably played by Greenwood) as his predecessor perished in questionable circumstances after sinking the german vessel.
Soon, more pressing questions are on their mind, as the submarine begins to malfunction, and they narrowly survive an excellently filmed depth charge attack. The crew begins to die one by one, and soon no explanation but the supernatural can be found.
Twohy creats a tense and palapable atmosphere without resorting to spectacular visual effects or tangible enemies. He achieves this with some admirable filmwork, inlcuding a particular scene involing a reflection in a mirror which is downright eerie. You can actually see a character's sanity crack at a precise moment, which is a delight to watch. Twohy manages to achieve the delicate balance of tension and fear, without sacrificing the pace of the movie.
The acting is excellent throughout the movie, especially considering there are no notable Hollywood names involved. Sadly, this may have contributed to the movie's limited release, as it's becoming more and more difficult to attract a jaded movie-going audience without the lure of big names.
The movie offers the mechanics of the storyline - what happened, and why it happened, but offers no more than a cursory explanation about 'how'. Although it's not required in a movie of this type, and the films performs ably without it, it can't help but be a little disappointment for those of us who like our plots tied up in a neat little package. The narrative as a whole is somewhat disjointed, but provides a sufficient backdrop for the events portrayed in the movie.
'Below' performs superbly as a taut supernatural thriller, laced with elements of horror for good measure. A more subtle movie than others in the genre, every scene is imbued with wonderful ambience, and the storyline works towards building an engaging film. It's a pity Dimension didn't release 'Below' in more theatres, and give more people a chance to watch this excellent film. The numbers don't tell the whole story, as 'Below' aptly proves.