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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: Below

Below me

I'm not really a fan of U-boats and submarines. I always feel cramped and claustrophobic when watching movies that involve going underwater. I like the movies themselves, but I can't help but feel like the walls are closing in on me and air is running out. Throw some haunting in and you've got Below.

Below stars Matthew Davis (Legally Blonde, Pearl Harbor) as World War II Naval officer Odell aboard the USS Tiger Shark. The crew receive a distress call and pick up 3 survivors from a sinking British hospital ship. One of the survivors turns out to be a German and Officer Brice (Bruce Greenwood. I, Robot, Star Trek) shoots him. Strange happenings being to occur on the boat; strange sounds, disturbing images, and malfunctions soon cripple the boat and the crew. It is revealed that Brice gave the order to fire on a boat that he thought was German, but it turned out to be a British hospital ship. His commanding officer, Captain Winters, tried to rescue the British survivors, but Brice and the other officers killed him to keep their secret. Now, through supernatural forces, the boat is heading back to the spot of the boat sinking. How will Odell and the renaming crew survive?

I call them hoagies, not submarines

Below is really on the fringes of the horror genre. There is some haunting going on and a few flashes of something supernatural, but most of the movie lies in the suspense section. A sinking boat, exploding engines, and a lack of oxygen are the real villains in the movie. The ghost is more window dressing than anything else. I'm not really sure I can even call it a ghost. Narrow corridors and tight spaces make the viewer feel like they are right there in the boat along with the characters.

There are a few moments that make you jump, but the movie wouldn't be classified as “scary”. Most of the fear comes from the psychological terror of being stuck in small spaces while sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Acting is fairly good all around, helped by smaller roles from Zach Galifianakis, Scott Foley, and Andrew Howard. There are some effects, but most are used for underwater scenes and not supernatural ones. The movie is about an hour and forty minutes long and it certainly feels like it. Its slow, but it doesn't really drag too much.

You sunk my haunted battleship

Below is a good suspense movie, but a so-so horror movie. It is closer to movies like U-571 and K-19: The Widowmaker than Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror. Thankfully it wasn't cartoonish like Ghost Ship. A decent WWII story with good acting and a good supporting cast make the entire movie watchable. If you're looking for a scare, Below will not help you. If you're looking for a WWII movie, you're in luck.


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