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Forgotten Treasures

Essays on sci-fi and horror movies that may have slipped beneath the cracks.

Run Silent, Run Creepy

3/2/2008 7:04:37 PM permalink

Hello and welcome to's newest blog. Here, we're hoping to shine a light on genre films from the last few years which were overlooked, neglected, or just never found the audience they deserved. One of the joys of fandom is discovering that quiet little horror film or sci-fi movie that nobody else seemed to notice. Hopefully, we'll be able to give some of them a little extra attention in the upcoming weeks. Our inaugural film is BELOW, a nifty thriller from director David Twohy. Released without fanfare in 2002, it quickly vanished from the radar and currently occupies a sad dusty corner of the bargain rack at your local Blockbuster. An unkind fate for such a smart, scary, and remarkably well-crafted horror film. It starts with a classic "two great tastes that taste great together" premise: submarine movies mixed with haunted house movies. Both genres feature a limited cast in an enclosed space, dark corners that you can never quite see, and tons of spooky noises that may or may not come from something horrible ready to kill you. Submarines also solve one of the biggest logic problems all haunted house movies face: when the walls start bleeding and the portals to hell gape wide, why don't these people just leave? In the case of BELOW, they can't: they're stuck forty fathoms down with whatever unholy thing has decided to take up residence and there's nothing for them to do but take it. Unlike a lot of horror directors, Twohy refuses to just coast on his basic gimmick. He fleshes it out with characters who interest us, mysteries that intrigue us, and genuine suspense punctuated with just enough gore to drive its point home. It starts in the North Atlantic, circa 1943. A medical transport has been torpedoed by the Germans and a tiny handful of survivors sit waiting for rescue in a life raft. They're picked up by the USS Tiger Shark, an American submersible with an enemy warship hot on its tail. After "grabbing everything that breathes" on the raft, they go deep, chased by a hailstorm of depth charges and the nagging sense that the German vessel isn't going anywhere soon. It gets worse. One of the survivors may not be who he appears, another is a woman (Olivia Williams) which means big time bad luck, and while the Tiger Shark's XO (Bruce Greenwood) seems extremely competent, he's still not the captain, of whom we see no sign... Twohy sets the mood by taking a page from DAS BOOT and other submarine classics, with low-angle framing and tracking shots through the sub's narrow corridors that stress a sense of claustrophobic entrapment. From there, he strikes a delicate balance in determining who or what may be lurking on the ship. Is there a ghost down there? Something worse? Or is it just stress and nerves playing tricks on everyone's mind? BELOW has an answer, but it takes great pleasure in drawing out the question, keeping the audience as taut as the characters stuck in its little tin can. The constant possibility of a very real (and mundane) death from the Germans can't eclipse the sense that they have bigger problems

Tags: horror, ghost, submarine, below, twohy


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Date Joined: March 2, 2008