Below/Ghost Ship review by The Grim Ringler

Below, Ghost Ship

Two movies enter, one movie leaves. Sadly though it’s been BELOW that has left the theaters in record time, which I credit to Dimension for not knowing the gem they had and for dumping it when they didn’t know how to sell it. Cowards I say, cowards and fools, shaking my fist in the air. It’s movies like BELOW that make Halloween so much fun, whereas it’s movies like GHOST SHIP that have you shaking your head in disbelief at what gets made and how a good movie is able to become so bad.

BELOW is, without a doubt, the best horror film I have seen this year. There, had to get that out of the way. BELOW is the story of an American submarine and its crew during World War II, its crew long out to sea and already under duress after the mysterious loss of their captain. Things only get worse though when they pick up three people that are the only remnants to a ship that has been sunk, and the stress levels increasing dramatically as one of the survivors turns out to be a woman. And suddenly above them lurks a Nazi war ship bearing down on them. But beyond all of that there is something far worse happening on this submarine and to its men, something that wants nothing more than to kill all that are aboard this damned ship. The tension mounts as the submarine is stalked both above the water by the Nazi vessel and below by something hateful but unseen, and quickly the bodies start piling up and the reality of what, or who, it is that is after them is slowly revealed.

Essentially this is a ghost story, a haunted house, set in a sub. What makes it work so well is that the acting and direction are spot on. You give a damn about the people aboard the sub and that makes things all the worse as the secrets the boat holds are revealed. And David Twohy did an amazing job of direction, never revealing too much and never pushing too hard, a thing most directors never get. They think they have to ram the ghosts and ghoulies down your throat to prove they are there when half the time sound effects and shadows do the trick rather well. Twohy (and the wonderful script) creates a solid dread in the film and makes you believe that you are in an actual sub (another hard thing to do, which is as much acting as it is filming). The magic of the movie, for me, really comes together during the very end shots, which serve as sort of a grim echo to all that has come before and serves to close the film in a very fitting tone. If one thing could be said ill of the film is that it does what it does TOO well, in that people obviously don’t really care about haunted subs and a thought-provoking horror film as the film bombed on release. Which is a shame because this was the only real treat we were given at the movies this past Halloween.

The trick came with the release of Ghost Ship, a film that is almost as deceiving as a ghost itself, appearing to be a fun, scary movie creeping out at us from the closet, but that in reality is more of a sheet in the wind. The film follows a kooky ship salvaging crew fresh off their latest job and on the verge of finally going home after an extended stay at sea. But as they are celebrating the end of their job a stranger appears to offer them the chance at salvaging an errant ship he has discovered floating blindly far away from other shipping traffic. Seeing an easy way to make some extra cash, the crew signs on, some reluctantly so, and is quickly off to find their newest floating money sign. Only what they find, dum, dum, dum is no ordinary ship but is in fact an Italian liner that had disappeared without a trace in the sixties, and what our intrepid salvagers have found (or been lead to) is literally a goldmine, but alas at what cost?

My patience, that is the cost. The film is shot very well, is acted as well as films like this are – meaning not that wonderfully but that they get the movie rolling and don’t get in its way – but then the technical aspects aren’t the problem here, the story is. What begins with a very well done fright flick falls apart like so many of these things do and what had been a fun movie becomes a pointless bore and chore for the last half an hour. It’s as if the writers had come up with a great premise but then didn’t know what to do with it, so they concocted some nonsense resolution that is a flat out cheat and essentially pisses on all the good the film had been before. Thus turning a swell time waster into another black mark on the genre.

Both movies have sailed away to the deep waters of life on video and it’s my sincere hope that they get their due – that Ghost Ship sinks under the weight of its own crap, and that Below manages to muster up some sort of word of mouth that will get the props it deserves as one badmofo ghost flick.


9 out of 10 Jackasses

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