Director: David Twohy
The setting is World War II. A U.S. submarine prowling about German-infested water, picks up a shipwrecked British crew of three with one of them being a woman (Williams). Staying true to the saying that “women are bad luck on a sub”, the shite hits the fan in more ways than one.
“Maybe we're spending more time watching that broad than watching our backs”-- Loomis
Initially expected to open wide in theaters in 2002, Miramax (through Dimension Films) decided to drown “Below” on 150 screens around the world instead. Not only that, but director David Twohy actually had to put up his own money to create a website for the film and to purchase advertising on the Net. Yes, Dimension weren’t doing jackshit to push the film! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT??? Needless to say, “Below” didn’t swim up to my town and I was pretty pissed off about the whole affair. Now that it’s out on DVD and that I’ve FINALLY seen it, I’m even angrier since it definitely should’ve been seen on the big screen by all! Grrrrrrr....I’m going to crack some skulls here.
Written by Darren Aronofsky (who was initially set to direct, but did "Requiem for a Dream" instead), Lucas Sussman (debut) and David Twohy, "Below" didn’t disappoint me one bit by taking me on one hell of a submarine ride and living up to all the positive hype I had picked up about it during its limp theatrical release. What was up with Dimension on this one? Why did they treat it like an unwanted stepchild with genital warts? Maybe since the film is well written, intelligent, had no rappers in it and was aimed at a mature audience they didn’t know what to do with it. How can they recoup their costs with a “smart” film? That’s a tough one, hey guys? When’s “Equilibrium” coming out in North America, by the way? Oh yeah, it’s probably also a good movie, so I guess I should scratch that one off my list as well. Whatever man. Rant over.
"Below" is an atmospheric, claustrophobic eerie exercise in style and psychological shenanigans that will tickle your cerebral nerves in chilling ways. I perceived it as two films rolled into one fat joint of "toke-toke-pass" fun times. The first movie in here is akin to "U-571" and its brothers. You dig submarine movies? Yes? Well, you’ll be well served here with this realistic and exciting sub adventure. I felt like I was part of the crew while watching this puppy; Twohy truly captured how it must've felt to be kicking it on a submarine in all of its “cabin fever” glory. We also get everything from action-heavy run-ins with German boats dropping barrel bombs (you bet all kinds of people say “splashes"), to the mental repercussions that living on a submarine brings, to a multitude of complications due to the sub’s degenerating state. The subplots mentioned above, led to thrilling, suspenseful and, at times, semi-shocking scenarios. Sub fans take notice! This one is for you!
And then we have the horror movie angle which was thankfully played out in extremely subtle ways, subsequently kicking my ass all over the hull. Think old school, think “classic”, and think mucho effective. I got the chills more than once while watching this sucka and that had a lot to do with A) The surreal ambiance that Twohy injected into the film B) The capitalization on the sub setting-- I mean, let's face it, with its dark corridors and pitch black (pun intended) corners, the sub is a perfect playground for a horror movie C) Twohy’s brilliant use of sounds that sneakily crawled under my skin and D) Twohy’s incredible talent when it came to capturing and using momentum during the scare scenes. Yes, the film played it down, sometimes ambiguous, but it did it with high skills and it worked on me like a hooker working overtime in the suction department.
Character-wise, the players here were mostly defined by the situation, but I knew enough about them to care and the actors behind them made sure to keep my attention all the way through as well. Matthew Davis (O’Dell), Bruce Greenwood (Brice) and Olivia Williams (Claire) are not big name stars, but are all solid performers with acting chops the size of my ego to back them up. Who needs freaking stars when you got that jive kicking? Tag to all that, jaw-dropping cinematography, a pleasurable and constant mind-toying attitude, clever dialogue up the wazoo, a few “boo scares” that had me impersonating a grasshopper, ambitious shots galore, awesome moments of slow motion madness and you get a polished offering that delivered on so many counts.
I guess my only big qualms with the movie would have to be that it did go on for a little too long and at times, felt a tad unfocused. Some snipping would’ve been nice to tighten up the pace and to direct the narrative more specifically. Other than that, I’ve got no complaints. I've heard some peeps say that the film had too many characters and was confusing but I never got muddled as to who was who or what was going on. You have to watch and LISTEN to the movie to fully grasp it. When all was sunk and done, I was very pleased with my “Below” experience. What’s that I hear? “Splashes”…of red!
Not much of this stuff, we get some light blood, a couple of deadly wounds and burnt flesh.
Matthew Davis (O’Dell) had the look and the skills to make his part quite endearing. He worked! Bruce Greenwood (Brice) was all intensity and owned his character as always. Olivia Williams (Claire) was gripping as the female presence and I loved that stillness that she conveyed. Holt McCallany (Loomis) and Jason Fleyming (Stumbo) both played their parts with gusto.
T & A
The ladies get it all with some dude’s milky white ass and the phallic submarine.
While watching this flick, I came up with this: David Twohy is a master of slow-motion. He knows how, when and how much to use in order to kick us into submission. Add to that some crazy shots, slick angles, red filters galore and potent scares and you get a well rounded horror movie. Twohy is growing as a director and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
I love Graeme Revell (he did the "The Crow" score) and he didn’t let me down with this spooky and edgy score either. We also get a clever use of Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing".
If you’re in the mood for a creepy, low-key and high IQ chiller, go down “Below” and thank me in the morning with some flap jacks and syrup. This gem was a refreshing watch from all the more obvious shite I always see and I was ecstatic to be mentally challenged by this film. It’s not every day that you get solid acting, a layered narrative, snazzy directing and a mature tone all in one horror picture. My advice: shut the lights, kill the phone and watch it in the dead calm, ink-black darkness of your room. As for Dimension Films, I’ll quote the film and say “Grow some dicks and shut up!” I feel better now.
"Below" was originally set for release on February 8th, 2002, then the summer of 2002 and ultimately, October 11th, 2002.
The original title of the film was "Proteus”.
David Twohy also directed "The Arrival" and "Pitch Black".