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HTF REVIEW: "Below" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 61 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 04 2003 - 04:44 AM

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Studio: Dimension
Year: 2002
Rated: R
Film Length: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English and Spanish

Six hundred feet beneath the surface
terror runs deep

I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of horror
films, but I do enjoy a good scare now and then.
As a casual observer of the horror genre, I have
come to learn that the best scares often come from
those things you don't see. In other words,
the unknown is far more scarier than the obvious.

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Below is a horror film that effectively uses
every trick in the book to produce some rather
effective bone-chilling scares. First of all, the
film takes place on a submarine creating a highly
claustrophobic atmosphere with its tight corridors
and eerie surrounding sounds. Put a bunch of
characters in a spooky environment that is shut
off from the rest of the world and you certainly
have what it takes to create a chilling haunted-house

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The year is 1943. The submarine USS Tiger Shark
is on patrol in the deep seas. The submarine is
under the command of Lt. Brice (Bruce Greenwood),
who has just recently taken over after the previous
skipper died in a mysterious accident. Capt. O'Dell
(Matthew Davis), a newcomer on the ship, doesn't seem
to trust the new commander, suspecting there is more
to the accident than his superior is letting on.

Orders suddenly come through to pick up three
survivors from a torpedoed British hospital ship.
Upon arrival, the USS Tiger shark picks up three
survivors who are cautiously welcomed. One of the
survivors is a nurse named Claire (Olivia Williams),
who immediately becomes subjected to sexist remarks
made by the onboard sailors.

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Soon after their rescue, strange occurrences start
happening aboard the submarine. After a while, the
occurrences start to become very violent and the crew
begins to believe that the ship is haunted by ghosts.
It is apparent that some unknown force is targeting
the submarine, and the crew suddenly finds themselves
racing against time to figure out what this force

Below could have easily been dismissed as
a run-of-the-mill horror film, but actually rises
above most others for the fact that it is
scary. Director David Twohy (Pitch Black) uses the
cramped setting of a submarine to great advantage.
It is here that he creates the gloomiest of
atmospheres with its tight tangled passageways and
failing electronics that leave the crew in complete
darkness. Imagine being trapped in a haunted house
that has no exit door, and you can imagine the kind
of chills this film offers.

How is the transfer?

The transfer is superb. The print is pristine and
images are razor-sharp and well detailed with
excellent color rendering. The background is nice
and smooth with no visible grain nor noise. Just

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The real highlight of this DVD is its extremely
active and effective 5.1 surround track. It is not
often that a film absolutely needs a mix as good as
this one to help deliver its spine-tingling chills.
Imagine yourself trapped below the water's surface
in a submarine with no quick exit. Surrounding you
are the various creaks and noises of the shifting
bulkhead. As you sit and watch this film, I promise
you will actually feel like you are trapped
in that submarine. This sensational soundtrack
throws every rumble, clank and screech at you from
every direction. Your heart will begin to race
as you find the entire listening area suddenly probed
by the sounds of sonar ping. Your heart will then
pound as you find yourself under attack by a German
warship as it drops depth charges that explode across
the entire soundfield with booming LFE support. Not
since Das Boot and U-571 has a film
actually made you feel as if you were trapped inside
a doomed vessel, and this soundtrack certainly conveys that horror.

Special Features

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The DVD offers a full-length commentary with
director David Twohy and actors Matt Davis, Bruce
Greenwood, Holt McCallany, Zach Galifianakis and
Nick Chinlund. When you put so many young people
together you can only expect this commentary to
be more freewheeling and jovial. Unfortunately,
there isn't much to be learned here. We never hear
what it was like to be trapped for months on a
small submarine set or anything about the effects
shots that were done. This is basically just a
bunch of actors having a good time mocking on one
another with Twohy occasionally interjecting
information about how he framed various shots. If
there is anything we do learn from this commentary
is the cast's most memorable moments together on
the set.

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The Process is the kind of featurette I
wish studios would make more often! Instead of being
some self-promotional BS piece, it serves as a
rather cool film diary that takes us through various
rehearsals, shoots and set walkthroughs. It's a
slickly produced and nicely entertaining look at
the process of putting together a film like this.
(length: approx. 12 minutes)

There are of almost 8 minutes worth of deleted
that were obviously removed because they
slowed the film's overall pacing. One of the scenes
is effective in humanizing the crew as they ponder
various superstitions. Another scene involves a
rogue torpedo that the crew races to load and eject.
Another scene involves the use of flares for the
film's finale. The scenes are not presented in

Finally, the original theatrical trailer
is included.

Final Thoughts

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I had heard rumors about production problems on
this film and that may have been the reason why
Dimension decided on a very low profile release for
the movie. Though the film didn't fare well on the
big screen, Below is perfect for the Home
Theater environment where it's utter creepiness
works brilliantly in a more intimate setting. This
is a horror movie that will work well with this
format, and it is my hope that with this DVD release
it will receive the favorable word-of-mouth it deserves.

At the very least, rent this film.

Release Date: March 11, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 61 OFFLINE   BradyB


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Posted March 04 2003 - 04:55 AM

Thanks for the review Ron,

I missed this in theaters cause no one would go with me, but they can't stop me from buying it. Posted Image

Your review sealed the deal. (like it has so many times before)


#3 of 61 OFFLINE   Adam_S



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Posted March 04 2003 - 05:13 AM

umm I haven't seen the film, but is that ethereal-being-in-blue in one of the last screencaps a major spoiler? I look forward to seeing this one. Adam

#4 of 61 OFFLINE   Brajesh Upadhyay

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Posted March 04 2003 - 05:29 AM

Looking forward to this as well. So far, I've really liked other Twohy flicks like "Pitch Black" & "The Arrival". He makes great B-movies.
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#5 of 61 OFFLINE   Mark Lemmond

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Posted March 04 2003 - 05:33 AM

Great review I'll be buying this one blind.
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#6 of 61 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted March 04 2003 - 06:20 AM

I'll buy this blind as well, thanks for the review Ron.

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#7 of 61 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted March 04 2003 - 06:53 AM

Thanks for the review! My sight unseen preorder has been in for a while. This movie NEVER played theatres here.

#8 of 61 OFFLINE   Calvin Watts III

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Posted March 04 2003 - 09:59 AM

Thank you Ron! A must buy for me!

#9 of 61 OFFLINE   Garrett Adams

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Posted March 04 2003 - 11:14 AM

Ron you really over-ranked the O'Dell character. He was an Ensign, not a Captain. Gigantic difference.

#10 of 61 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted March 04 2003 - 06:31 PM

I was going to write almost the exact same things Ron wrote. Let me elaborate on the sound mix. It is not as "loud" as U-571, however, it is more effective, and 'realistic' as when the POV is from outside (in the water) it is muffled, and obviously when inside the sub, very open. It also comes across as stylistic, as when other movies sort of mute the sound effects for more visual emphasis. This has my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED seal, and the opening scene is just the COOLEST visually and aurally! The GRevell score ain't bad.

#11 of 61 OFFLINE   Justin_S



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Posted March 04 2003 - 08:28 PM

I absolutely loved this true gem of a film, and it is easily one of the top 3 best films of 2002! Dimension should've given this film a wider release, but seeing how I had been highly anticipating this film for a good while, I was just really overjoyed that it opened near me so I could experience it sooner rather than later, and in a nice theater at that. You can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to be picking this stellar film up first thing next Tuesday morning, and I can't wait to see it again! Oh yeah, that screen shot with the ghost isn't a spoiler unless you don't want to have any clue what the ghost(s) looks like before viewing the film.

#12 of 61 OFFLINE   LennyP


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Posted March 04 2003 - 09:37 PM

I was one of those 6 who saw the movie in theaters and absolutely loved it, I'm definetly getting this DVD. Too bad it's not "Highly Recommended" but I guess you've already wasted your amount of those for this week on far less deserving movies Posted Image
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#13 of 61 OFFLINE   Jenna


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Posted March 05 2003 - 02:03 AM

Well, with those type of comments, it'll be hard NOT to buy this one blind. I'd never heard of it, never even seen a trailer for it, but it sounds great. Love sub movies! Love scary movies! SOLD!
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#14 of 61 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted March 05 2003 - 02:06 AM

For those who have seen it, is it a gory/bloody type horror film? Or more on the creepy/scary side?

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#15 of 61 OFFLINE   Brett_B


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Posted March 05 2003 - 03:16 AM

Ron, It is more on the "creepy/scary" side. Not too much gore in this one. I enjoyed this one as well in the theaters. Didn't hear anything about it other than it was a "horror" movie that takes place on a submarine. So, I guess my expectation level was pretty low (I wasn't expecting much), and the movie exceeded those expectations. Don't go into this movie thinking it will set a standard because it won't. It was just a well told story IMO.

#16 of 61 OFFLINE   Chris Tedesco

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Posted March 05 2003 - 06:09 AM

I hadn't even heard of this movie in theatres, but I'm always up for a good horror/suspense flick. I'm glad you reviewed it. The fact it has superb video and audio quality doesn't hurt it either. thanks!

#17 of 61 OFFLINE   ErichH



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Posted March 05 2003 - 08:58 AM

Thanks for the review Ron! I just love Pitch Black & every time The Arrival comes on Sat I'm drawn in. Think I'll snag the single disk of the Arrival(OOP) and prep for Below on Tuesday. A complete Director David Twohy set for me! Eric

#18 of 61 OFFLINE   Patrick Mirza

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Posted March 05 2003 - 09:31 AM

I'll never understand why Dimension treated this film so badly. Why it didn't get a theatrical release beyond, say, 5 theaters is absolutely puzzling. You'd think after The Arrival and Pitch Black proved to be superior genre pictures, Twohy would get cut some slack!

#19 of 61 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted March 05 2003 - 09:38 AM

maybe the test screening crowd at 3am were all asleep. and tracking that month was offline. maybe they needed the marketing budget to complete Gangs Of New York. get the DVD!



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Posted March 07 2003 - 01:55 AM

Guess what I watched last night? I had to stop at (local B&M store) after work yesterday. I wandered into the DVD section while I was there and noticed someone screwed up and put copies of Below on the shelf. I snagged one up @ $19.99. I don't know if this one will be much cheaper at BB next week because it's a pretty low key title. Anyway I watched it last night so I thought I would do an advanced review. First image and sound. The film runs 105mins and the 1.85:1 image is eye popingly clear and sharp throughout. Very impressive considering the tough to render material with many dark scenes, blue and red tints galore and an over all gritty look on the sub. The DD only sound track also did not disappoint. For dynamics it's definitely no U-571 but then again what is. The sound track has lots of really cool creaks and groans kind of like Dasboot...lots of surround. One scene in particular comes to mind but I won't spoil it for anyone. As for the film itself it was a very good if not very scary combination of ghost story and WWII action. It drags just a bit about 3/4 of the thru. The acting by the mostly small name cast was spot on, the special effects were actually pretty plentiful and very good...I just love CG sub action. There was minimal gore for a horror movie and I couldn't help but see just a little hint of Pitch Black in the photography. Worth $20 for me...I can't wait to see it again and watch the minimal special features over the weekend.
Randy J. Fisher, CTS-D

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