Below 2002 ★★★½

"Mister Loomis, where's our crew?"
-Brice (Bruce Greenwood)

It is 1943, World War Two rages on, and in the dark silence of the North Atlantic, the submarine U.S.S. Tiger Shark prowls on what should be a routine rescue mission. With the discovery that one of the survivors from the torpedoed British hospital ship is German however, animosity amongst the crew begins to develop, which leads to his death. Subsequently, supernatural occurrences ensue, and the crew are thrust on a foray into mental delusions and deceptions as fear and paranoia runs amok.

Below very much follows the standard archetypal B-movie in terms of design, but it is elevated above the usual drivel in the sub-genre, due to a steady directorial hand, a fine screenplay and super cinematography. Helmed by David Twohy, an already proficient director of B-movies such as The Arrival (1996) and Pitch Black (2000), and written by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream (2000), Black Swan (2010)), Below is in more than able hands.

The two manage to create a palpable atmosphere of suspense effectively melding claustrophobia and gnawing tension with a classic ghost story. The scale and scope of the film is relatively small, but this often just intensifies the growing sense of unease. The acting is of a high standard from all the cast, both British and American, particularly Olivia Williams and Holt McCallany. Zack Galifianakis is also good in a serious role for once. It’s Bruce Greenwood's performance that really steals the show, however, as the mysterious captain. All things considered, it’s a nice revisit to the days when horror was about genuine suspense rather than gratuitous gore. Aesthetically, it’s a B-movie, but here the ‘B’ can be for brilliant rather than bad, like so many in this sub-genre.

VERDICT; A solid film that effectively combines both psychological tension with a classic ghost tale, supported by a firm plot, a sound screenplay and good cinematography. It’s still just a B-movie, but it packs efficient scares and a commendable story. A decent return to basics.
3.5/5 or 7/10

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