BELOW (2002) Reviews of WWII submarine horror flick

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‘Six hundred feet. Beneath the surface. Terror runs deep.’

Below is a 2002 World War II horror feature film directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black; Riddick). It was co-written by Twohy with Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky.

The movie stars Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Matthew Davis, Holt McCallany, Scott Foley, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Flemyng (The BunkerThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Stonehearst Asylum) and Dexter Fletcher.


August 1943: The USS Tiger Shark is a Navy submarine on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. The sub receives orders to pick up survivors spotted adrift by a British PBY Catalina patrol plane. Three survivors – the British nurse Claire Paige (Olivia Williams) and two men, one of them wounded – from the British hospital ship Fort James, are picked up.

Meanwhile, the submarine has several encounters with a German warship and suffers damage from depth charges in the process. Later, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Brice (Bruce Greenwood), discovers that the wounded survivor is actually a German prisoner-of-war, Bernard Schillings (Jonathan Hartman). Brice shoots Schillings dead when the German panics and grabs a scalpel to defend himself.


Brice reveals to Paige that the Tiger Shark had sunk a German submarine tender recently and that her previous commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Winters (Nick Hobbs), had died after the sub surfaced to confirm the sinking. Winters was apparently using a boathook to try to obtain a souvenir from the flotsam left behind by the sunken German ship when the Tiger Shark struck a submerged object, causing Winters to hit his head, fall overboard, and drown before he could be rescued…


“In its best moments it can evoke fear, and it does a good job of evoking the claustrophobic terror of a little World War II boat, but the story line is so eager to supply frightening possibilities that sometimes we feel jerked around. Isn’t it possible for a submarine to be haunted without turning it into a museum of horror film devices? Of those devices, the most tiresome is the convention that surprises make sounds.”


“It is kept as a “more is less” presentation while enhanced with the strange surroundings of a haunted environment. We expect “something” to occur, just never know when that something will rear its spooky head. The cast is enhanced with a few familiar faces that interact in a believable way. Even as the horror unfolds in small doses, a mystery thriller begins to surface in this underrated gem.” HNN


“As to the ghost story — well, if you aren’t able to guess the “twist”, then you haven’t been watching nearly enough Twilight Zone episodes yourself. And did I mention that the pacing and plotting is horrible? Or that the film is as scary as taking a nap?” Beyond Hollywood

“By changing out the horror movie model of women being scared with an almost all-male cast, save for Olivia Williams as the sole female survivor from the British ship, Below is able to prey on tension and reactions that one might not necessarily find in the inverse situation. Furthermore, Below offers restraint to its horror, allowing the viewers to experience the scares right alongside the characters in ways that feel unexpected and undeniably rattling.” Fangoria

Cast and characters:

  • 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, Junior Grade Steven Coors
  • Zach Galifianakis as “Weird” Wally
  • Jason Flemyng as Stumbo
  • Dexter Fletcher as Kingsley
  • Nick Chinlund as Chief
  • Andrew Howard as Hoag
  • Christopher Fairbank as Pappy
  • Nick Hobbs as Lieutenant Commander Winters

Filming locations:

Lake Michigan for exteriors (using the World War II-era U.S. Navy submarine USS Silversides)

Pinewood Studios, England, for interiors


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