Here's the set-up: it's 1943 in the North Atlantic, and the U.S.S. Tiger Shark picks up three survivors from a British hospital ship that was torpedoed two days earlier; the discovery that one of the survivors is a German leads to violence; and, then, really weird things start happening, all the while a German cruiser is chasing the sub down. Is a ghost trying to destroy the sub and its crew, or are they just imagining things through convenient coincidences?
Below was written by Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky and the film's director, David N. Twohy; Aronofsky is the smart filmmaker behind the art-house hit Requiem for a Dream, and Twohy has consistently specialized in sophisticated "B" pictures like The Arrival and Pitch Black. Below offers up an intricate storyline that keeps both the characters and the audience guessing--when they and we aren't jumping out of our skins in terror. Twohy's direction is an example of economic brilliance--the flick charges forward, piling on the twists and scares methodically, but never gratuitously--thankfully, this is a horror flick that's more about mood than about gore--indeed, it's less in tune with modern splatterfests than it is an homage to the cerebral Val Lewton thrillers of the 1940s (like The Seventh Victim or Isle of the Dead).
And what mood this movie creates! Ian Wilson's cinematography is vibrant and chilling, and the magnificent special effects never overwhelm the story--except for a final, hauntingly beautiful shot that will linger in your memory for quite awhile.
An added bonus is the cast of smart players: Bruce Greenwood as the sub commander trying to hold his crew and himself together; Matt Davis as the wet-behind-the-ears officer not really accepted by the crew; Olivia Williams as an English nurse who is both suspect and suspicious; and Holt McCallaney as a gruff officer.
It appears that Below is being dumped by its studio, Dimension, with little advertising or fanfare; a shame, really, since it's one of the most sophisticated and highest quality pictures I've seen in quite awhile. [Rated R: Violence, language, brief nudity.]