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Below

There are a lot of submarine movies, and there are a lot of horror movies. In their zeal to find something new, horror movie makers typically look to expand into different genres, and it was only a matter of time before the two came together. There is one very important name lurking in the writing credits of Below; Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky is the visionary auteur behind movies like Pi and Requiem for a Dream. He shares writing credit with Lucas Sussman and director David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Arrival), and the fact that he is missing as a director shows. It would have been great watching how Aronofsky would use his unique way of making movies to approach Below, instead, Twohy gives the film a much more straightforward approach.

What Below has in its favor is the claustrophobic environs of a submarine. Combining the fear that can happen when one's imagination runs wild at the bottom of the ocean is a novel idea, but here is becomes a tad mundane. Below takes place on a damaged World War II submarine close to the English shore, but heading home to America. The War is going on above them, so tensions are high. They pick up Claire (Olivia Williams, The Man From Elysian Fields, The Body), an English nurse and some of her patients from a sinking ship. She is the only woman on board so this instantly causes problems. Of course, odd things begin happening. Crewman hear noises and think they see things, and nobody can explain them.

Below includes a roster full of B tier actors. This doesn't mean that they are bad, it just means that they are usually found in supporting roles. Nobody really does anything to distinguish himself here, meriting a bump up to a higher pay scale and recognition factor. Lt. Brice (Bruce Greenwood, Swept Away, Thirteen Days) is in charge of the ship and apparently hiding something. O'Dell (Matthew Davis, Legally Blonde, Blue Crush) is a newer member. He suspects something is wrong and feels left out. Loomis (Holt McCallany, Men of Honor, Three Kings) obviously dislikes O'Dell, and seems to be hiding something too. Coors (Scott Foley, Scream 3, Rennie's Landing) has a beard and is still pining for Felicity. There are some other members of the crew, who in grand horror fashion slowly die off, one by one.

Below has promise which is squanders, but at least it doesn't stoop to constant gore to take the place of genuine fear. The submarine setting does allow for all of the crew to be trapped in an enclosed environment, where anything that bumps against the hull is liable to cause loud noises. Everybody is tired and distracted, so it is hard to tell if they are truly imagining something or not. There is basically a big secret that only a few people know about that literally comes back to haunt everybody. There are the expected moments that jolt the audience, but this is no different than any other movie. The horror angle is what ultimately dooms the film. As the movie nears its end, Below seems like most other movies out there.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated R for some language and violence.

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