- Bruce Greenwood as Lieutenant Brice
- Matthew Davis as Ensign Douglas Odell
- Olivia Williams as Claire Paige
- Holt McCallany as Lieutenant Paul Loomis
- Scott Foley as Lieutenant Steven Coors
- Zach Galifianakis as Wally
- Jason Flemyng as Stumbo
- Dexter Fletcher as Kingsley
Although it offers nothing really new to the supernatural horror genre, Below is a tense and claustrophobic film that at least makes an impact due to atmosphere and cast and doesn’t promise to be anything bigger than it is.
It is August 1943, during World War II. The US Tiger Shark is a Navy submarine on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship gets orders to rescue any possible survivors from a sunken British ship. The crew rescue three survivors, two injured men and a female medical doctor named Claire Paige. Her arrival makes the crew uneasy due to the belief that a woman on board is bad luck and the fact that they haven’t seen a women for so long. The officer in charge Lieutenant Brice calms the situation the best he can, but then spots a German warship which they flee from by going underwater. Once underwater is when strange events begin to unfold. In the close and confined space, secrets that link to the mysterious Brice and his right hand man Loomis lurk. The opinionated and far from submissive Claire becomes the one most curious as to what transpired before her arrival. Yet there is another bigger set of problems that begin to come into fruition as seemingly supernatural events begin to take hold, including visions people can’t deny. Soon enough, the ship is haunted by an unseen force. With paranoia rising and the submarine depleted from attack, who will make it out alive? What is plaguing the ship with all these chilling events and why? And is the ship really haunted or is there something more foul at play within the submarine?
Director David Twohy displays confident enough direction that induces chills and a claustrophobic impact as the ship becomes littered with death and deception. He could have gone a bit deeper into some aspects, but this is a minor thing as he shows flair for the material and creates many spine-tingling moments of horror. A dark visual style of muted blues is excellent at crafting the underwater atmosphere and sense of no escape in Below as the ship continues to move down and the horror begins to awaken. One main flaw with Below would have to be the script. While it is far from shambolic, it could have benefited from a fixer upper in terms of some character development. Some of the characters, mainly in the supporting category seem to appear and disappear without any real explanation. The supporting characters that are defined are very good, but the ones that aren’t just don’t cut it. At least the main set of characters are decent enough in their own ways. There is a nice sound design to Below that highlights the fact that the crew may not be alone on the ship and a superb score brims with claustrophobic tension and sudden jolts of terror.
Despite the often repetitive and B-movie style dialogue found within Below, the cast contributes great work that makes the characters more interesting than they could have been. Bruce Greenwood is suitably mysterious as the man in charge, who clearly isn’t cut out for the job yet listens to no one. He gives the role a slimy aura that is unmistakable. Matthew Davis plays the role of the curious and suspicious Odell, who knows something is going on but seems to be admonished when he tries to unearth it. As the sole woman in the film, Olivia Williams makes a mark as the no-nonsense nurse who won’t be spoken down to just because of her gender. In the hands of another actress the part would be nothing much, but in the capable hands of Williams, it gets a lot of credibility. The muscled authority and strength of Holt McCallany is on show in his performance as the right hand man to the acting officer. Some good support comes courtesy of Scott Foley, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher as other members of the crew and a wounded survivor respectably.
Below is not the best supernatural horror out there nor does it pretend to be, instead it is a very chilling and atmospheric movie that makes great use of the setting and tensions that begin to build.