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]