Overlooked Horror – “Below”

In 2002 this little gem went largely unappreciated. Despite boasting a writing credit by Darren Aronofsky and starring Olivia Williams and a wonderful supporting role played by Zach Galifianakis it was a bit too thriller for horror fans a smidge too horror for mainstream thriller audiences (terrible marketing doesn’t help either). Essentially the premise is “haunted submarine” set in World War 2. But what makes this flick standout is how well written and wonderfully executed it is. It doesn’t strive to be anything mind-shattering; it’s just a very good, very fun to watch horror thriller set in a submarine.

The film centers around three British workers rescued from their sunken hospital boat; two sailors and a nurse (played by Williams). Questions surround the circumstances of their rescue: Are they spies? Was their ship really sunk? How did they stray so far out into Nazi waters? As the sub is suddenly hunted by a mysterious German warship it’s discovered that one of the rescued sailors is a Nazi POW, and the issue of trust splits the crew of the ship in half. The presence of the inexplicably eerie German ship becomes a conflict between the two factions in how it has found them and how best they should survive while being pounded with depth charges and matched in naval moves tit-for-tat. It’s slowly revealed the the circumstances of the rescue sub itself is now questionable. And meanwhile, the bearded, philosophical Galifianakis is given the opportunity to spin wild theories about the circumstances as he reads from issues of Horror Magazines.

Submarines are scary. It doesn’t matter what film you’re watching; you root for any person trapped in a submarine. They’re dank, claustrophobic dwellings where there’s no escape and our characters are forced to whisper lest they be spotted on a radar. “Das Boot” was about Nazis. And it didn’t matter. You wanted those Nazis to survive. Because they were in a submarine. The tension of waiting for depth charges, clanking sounds in the hull, or even a sneeze resulting in our characters being discovered (and subsequently drowned) makes the submarine setting terrifying by itself; but add horror elements gracefully woven into the story and you have one hell of a nail-biter.

[If anybody has a horror flick they think deserves a second look write it up and throw it my way and I’ll post it. I’m going to be running with this theme until Halloween because it’s easy and I have shit to do]

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6 thoughts on “Overlooked Horror – “Below”

  1. They could do a movie in space, but they’d feel a need to go in the direction of Solaris and the original was all we needed. The remake with Clooney was overkill. Of course in a world that remade Funny Games within ten years and did it shot for shot with the same director as if Americans cannot appreciate actors from any other nation…

    Oh well.

  2. You just got mad points in my book. Below was a great movie. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it on hbo a couple years after it was released. The lack of marketing and distribution probably killed its chances. But yes.. excellent story.. I always try and promote it when the chance comes.

    For other overlooked horror films… hmmm. Event Horizon is pretty well known. The first two Gingers Snaps movies have an entertaining uniqueness to them, they were very low budget, with a small release. Not necessarily scary, but just an entertaining watch.

  3. In all seriousness for a change, I need to see this movie. Thanks for the tip. I had indeed overlooked it and I love Ms. Williams.

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