Main Menu Introduction
Audio Commentary-D Twohy (Dir), M Davis (Act), B Greenwood (Act), et al
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (61:02)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||David Twohy|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
German Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Below follows the crew of the USS Tiger Shark during the second world war, opening with their receiving orders to back-track hundreds of miles to pick up survivors of a downed ship. When they arrive to take the survivors on board, they have two shocks awaiting them - one is a German ship which is probably not going to be too happy to see an American submarine, and the other is that one of the survivors is a woman. As the boat dives and turns for America, more and more things start to go wrong. Initially the crew are unconcerned, but as the problems mount, along with their costs, the tension on board does too. But what is the cause of these problems - is the boat just unlucky, or are the murmurings of a curse true? Is there something sinister at work?
What gives Below its interest is also the thing that hampers it most - the supernatural element. The film is quite reluctant to go into full-on horror mode, and as such can never decide whether it is aiming for outright horror, or a "did we really see that" psychological thriller. The result of this indecision is that rather than being either, it is probably best described as a supernatural drama - in short, it is simply not scary enough. It is a shame that the full potential of the idea was not realised, as the claustrophobic confines of a submarine combined with the very real terrors of World War II create a perfect atmosphere for horror. Having said all that there are two or three very good jump moments within Below, but they are few and far between, and when combined with the lack of tension for the majority of the time, the end result is quite tame.
A major positive for Below is the quality of the performances, and they provide a good base for what is actually a very interesting story. Starring a list of actors more used to supporting roles, the cast includes Bruce Greenwood (better known as J.F.K. in Thirteen Days) portraying the man in charge, Lt. Brice, and Holt McCallany (not really better known for anything - although chances are you have seen a movie with him in it) as his offsider Lt. Loomis. Both do a decent enough job of portraying men in-charge and under pressure, although both also clearly display why they have never really landed that big role. Matthew Davis does a very good job as the suspicious Odell, while Olivia Williams is a strong presence as the only woman in the movie. In lesser roles, Felicity's Scott Foley is impressive as the troubled Lt. Coors, while Jason Flemyng continues the repressed persona he displayed in From Hell as the low-class Stumbo.
In the end, Below ultimately fails as a horror movie not because it is bad, but simply because it is not all that scary. Was that reason enough to essentially bury the film theatrically? That is probably up to individual judgement, but compared to some of the total dross that gets dumped into cinemas, Below comes out looking like an Academy Award chance. Go into it expecting an interesting and slightly spooky supernatural-themed drama, and a good experience awaits - just don't expect a horror thrill ride.
This transfer is presented in the slightly cropped aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (the theatrical ratio was 1.85:1), and it is 16x9 enhanced.
While generally sharp, the transfer still has a lacklustre feel. There is no real reason for it, but the best way to describe it is that it seems a little "flat" - lacking in vibrancy. Grain bobs up from time to time in the "outdoor" scenes (and is far more horrendous than anything actually in the movie from 3:01 to 3:08), but is generally kept to a minimum. Shadow detail is only sufficient, and shadows are mostly large expanses of dark with no real depth to them. There is no low-level noise.
Colours are quite drab, but then again, there is not all that much to work with in a movie set for the most part under the sea in a metal tube. Where there are the opportunities for highlights - eyes, hair, some clothing, etc, the brighter colours are never overstated.
The extreme grain as mentioned previously from 3:01 to 3:08 does cause some pixelization, but as far as artefacts go that is it. There is no aliasing to speak of, no film artefacts, and no other compression artefacts. If the transfer only had some vibrancy to it, the almost total lack of artefacts would be a cause for celebration. As it is, the transfer is simply not good enough to reap the benefits of the good work done keeping the artefacts down.
The subtitles are a very good effort, being almost word-for-word accurate, rendered in an attractive font, well paced, and easy to read.
This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 61:02 during Chapter 10. The placement could have been better, as it is quite obvious even without sound, but it certainly could have been worse - it is a minor distraction only.
There are three audio tracks present on this disc. The first two are the original English dialogue, and a German dub, both in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 kbps). The third is the English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 kbps).
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. There are no issues with audibility of dialogue over effects either, which is quite pleasing given the extensive use of sound to create an atmosphere. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and never causes a problem.
The score is credited to Graeme Revell, and is a competent effort. There is nothing here that is particularly memorable, but it does a good job of backing up the on-screen action. Perhaps a more aggressive score could have been used to ratchet up the tension during the film, but it probably would not have worked.
Surround activity is very impressive. The surrounds come alive with all the noises of being under the ocean. On more than one occasion, I was turning at an unexpected sound only to realise it came from the movie soundtrack. A very pleasant listening experience indeed.
The subwoofer is used intelligently, adding backing to the effects that call for it, and sitting silent otherwise. There are a few occasions here that will drive the subwoofer to a good, wall-trembling, level.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is average - the transfer is a little flat and lifeless, more than having any specific problems, which is a shame as it is completely free from artefacts.
The audio quality is very good indeed. It features some rather vigorous use of the surround channels, and delivers bass where necessary without overdoing it. Very pleasing.
The extras are not exactly plentiful, but still more than would be expected for a film that fared as badly as Below did at the box office.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-555K, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||Rochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)|