We all live on a Haunted Submarine
Below (2002): 5 out of 10: Much like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village halfway through Below I had a horrible feeling of dread. There were many ways the plot could still go, and nothing but the atmosphere and build-up had taken place. Yet I became convinced that a lame, obvious payoff was in my future. I was right.
Below tells such a simple, straightforward story that the histrionics throughout the film seem even more overblown in retrospect than during the viewing. The movie succeeds on some levels; it has a nice Pitch Black homage, very good special effects and set design and it creates a spooky atmosphere with sounds all around you what with all those slamming doors and flickering lights. (Director David Twohy throws so many fright clichés at you, I’m surprised the submarine doesn’t have a cat.)
The downsides, besides the disastrous ending, are more plentiful. Bruce Greenwood, playing the acting skipper, comes across as more of a fishing charter captain than a sub commander in wartime. And Olivia Williams, as the rescued nurse, plays cold so well that I was rooting for the only piece of eye-candy in the whole film to die, disappear or at the very least shut up.
All of this is a bit of a shame because take away the ghost story (and the endless bump in the night cheap scares that accompany it) you have yourself a serviceable psychological thriller. On top of that, the action scenes with the Germans attacking the sub are tenser than any of the haunting stuff.
Director Twohy would have been wise to dump the end and go with a straightforward crippled World War II Submarine story.