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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Below... We all Live On a Haunted Submarine

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Below: 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 atmosphere and build-up had taken place. Yet I became convinced that a lame obvious payoff was in my future. I was right.

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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 does create a spooky atmosphere with sounds all around you and slamming door and flickering lights. (Director Twohy throws so many fright clichés at you I'm surprised the submarine doesn't have a cat.)

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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.

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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 pretty serviceable psychological thriller. On top of that the action scenes with the Germans attacking the sub are certainly tenser than any of the haunting stuff.

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Director Twohy would have been wise to dump the end and gone with a straightforward crippled World War 2 sub story.

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