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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Below (review)

Not only are haunted houses bad for neighborhood property values, but they’re really pointless, aren’t they? The first time some unholy voice from beyond the grave intoned “Get out,” you would, wouldn’t you? So what’s the upside for a spook looking to instill fear on an ongoing basis? Much better to haunt someplace the mortals can’t get out of. Like, say, a submarine. Director David Twohy’s (Pitch Black) new thriller — written, with understated style, with Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and Lucas Sussman — is a familiar story set in a new place, and the results are satisfyingly scarifying, fresh and old-fashioned at the same time. The U.S.S. Tiger Shark has a good record, hunting bad guys on the seas in 1943, but now its captain has died mysteriously after an attack on a German ship went bad. Lieutenant Brice’s (the terrifically sly Bruce Greenwood: Thirteen Days) hold on command gets shaky after the Shark picks up survivors from a British hospital ship, including nurse Claire (sure and steely Olivia Williams: The Sixth Sense) — did the Brits bring some departed soul seeking rest onboard with them, or is the ol’ cap’n’s spirit still rattling around? Cramped, claustrophobic, and clattering with mysterious noises, the Shark would be enough to make you jump on a good day, but throw in half-seen specters and Benny Goodman records turning themselves on, and suddenly the shivers aren’t caused only by the cold depths of the North Atlantic surrounding you. Keeping the actual scares off the screen and in your head, where they’re most effective, Below is a cut above what passes for horror movies these days.

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MPAA: rated R for language and some violence

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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