Below (Review)

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I was handed a copy of this by a mate and told “Just watch it.”, so I did.

I knew nothing about this film prior to watching it aside from the title on a nondescript DVD surface.

The plot is handed to me swiftly, within a few minutes you get the set up, a WWII plane spots signs of life in the water and as they are low on fuel radios a submarine, the USS Tiger Shark to investigate,

Now that I know it is a Submarine flick (Duh, “Below”) I immediately wonder how long it will take to hear “Dive! Dive”.

The Submarine picks up 3 survivors hastily with an enemy ship bearing down on them, the rescuees are apparently British from a hospital ship, 2 patients and a female nurse.

Cut to a fairly clumsy scene where that fact is spread throughout the boat Chinese Whispers style, only with each new guy a different euphemism “a woman”, “a female”, “a skirt”, “a bleeder”, and more I can’t remember. Yes sailors can be an informal bunch with colourful colloquialisms, no need to belabour the point.

Curiously enough, the rest of the movies only have sporadic use of profanity. I know it’s a movie but realism is realism. By this point it is clear that we have already met most of the cast, the woman is familiar, I recognize a couple others from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and others appear vaguely familiar from random films. (Edit: I finally realized that the lead actress played Bruce Willis’ wife in The Sixth Sense.)

Within hours it comes to light that the enemy ship is still searching for the sub, leading to a scene in which a tense “All Silence” order is broken by the inexplicable blaring of a record playing loudly despite no-one turning it on. The ship drops depth charges on the submarine, leading to an informal order to “Shake the set and fall over a lot”.

The crew initially blame Nurse Page for their uncovering, and restrict her to quarters, leading to her randomly walking through the ship for the first hour, don’t they have a brig or a room that can be locked?

It turns out that the former Captain of the boat is no longer aboard, having died earlier in the voyage, and it turns out the other officers all seem to want to take charge, and so inevitably that leads to jealousy and one-upmanship between them.

From here on in I guess without spoilers you could say with some accuracy that we are dealing with a spooky suspenseful tale, with thankfully not too many cheap scares, although at various times you are left wondering what is real and what is imagined or a vision.

As with all “ghosty” type movies there is a lot of stuff appearing from darkness, things open and shut of their own volition and people turn slowly to see things they don’t wanna see or glimpse things that they shouldn’t see.

There are definite parallels between this and “Event Horizon”, they are in a confined space with no-means of rescue, haunted by an unknown something, and should you leave the ship you can’t breathe.

I did get tired of the lights turning off at inopportune moments, which happened at least 3 or 4 times, (once maybe but come on), also too perhaps too many “hand reaching out to pull back a curtain” bits. There is a mirror scare that I can’t decide was really good or cheesy, regardless it was the one bit that gave me chills.

The finale is held on the prow (?) of the boat, obviously now afloat, in the middle of a storm. Perhaps not the ideal spot for a tiff, but the claustrophobic interiors of the boat were becoming a little stale and the change of location was beneficial?

The justification for the events when it comes to light is plausible and is actually enhanced by tidbits of information brought to light earlier in the film, but I would query if a logical explanation was really needed when a simple “spooky shit happens” might suffice.

All I can say is that initially I thought this would be a tale about beasties, a giant squid or similar, or even a fantasy creature. I don’t get a major hard-on for spookfests but this one was well handled and a pleasant surprise. For everyone who says “like that could happen” I might point out it’s a ghost story, not a WWII drama.

When the credits rolled I recognized the director as the same guy who made Pitch Black, another low key yet quality film, and the co-writer made “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream”, both definitely arthouse but interesting films nonetheless.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. There are a million crappy ghost stories, here is a pretty good one. You probably haven’t seen it, you probably should.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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