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It's August 1943 and the USS Tiger Shark, operating in the Atlantic ocean right after the biggest U-Boat operation in the war, is asked by a recon Catalina seaplane to pick up three survivors (a nurse and two patients) of a British hospital ship sunk by German submarine. But for some reason morale aboard the sub is low and it's going to go even lower as strange accidents start conspiring against the ship's continuing survival. May be something worse than mere bad luck... Maybe even a malediction is at work.

Below is a Psychological Horror movie with a cast of very familiar faces but not a single star, directed by David Twohy and written by Lucas Sussman and Darren Aronofsky in 2002.

No relation to either the fantasy novel by Lee Gaiteri, or the 2018 Roguelike BELOW.


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The tropes Below...

  • Abandon Ship: As more strange events happen aboard Tiger Shark, more and more of the crew become desperate to get off.
  • Artistic License – Ships: British merchant ships wouldn't fly the Union Jack, submarines were segregated during WWII and maximum periscope depth was 62 feet, for example.
    • In addition, this WWII era submarine was shown to have multiple decks, wide corridors, and much more interior space than any real-life submarine could have.
    • Perhaps the most glaring to historians is that American subs operated mainly in the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic. The Kriegsmarine also did not use ships as U-boat tenders, for the exact reasion why the Tiger Shark was hunting them in the film: They're extremely juicy targets. Instead, they used "Milk Cow" U-boats with enlarged holds and fuel tanks to resupply other U-boats.
  • Asshole Victim: LT Brice, LT Loomis, and LTJG Coors mistook a British hospital ship for the German sub tender they were looking for, then murdered Captain Winters to cover up their mistake. Loomis and Coors are both assholes right from the start, while Brice is more of a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who starts off appearing reasonable and becomes increasingly unhinged as things go From Bad to Worse.
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  • Awful Truth: The captain was killed to hide the fact that it was the Tiger Shark, not a U-boat, that sank the British hospital ship because of a failed target ID by Brice, Loomis, and Coors.
  • The Captain: Commander Brice. subverted in that Brice is actually the XO, in command after Winters was killed.
  • Character Tics: Loomis' Yo-Yo playing.
  • Creator Cameo: David Twohy appears as a Merchant Marine captain.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several: death by impalement, by burning alive, and having a winch snap off and embed in a crewman's head.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Brice calmly shining his shoes near the end, complaining mildly about not being able to find more Shine-ola.
  • Driven to Suicide: Brice does this after he is overcome with remorse for what he did to Winters and the Fort James.
  • Freak Out: Stumbo is prone to these.
  • Geek: Of the kind that read Amazing Stories and Weird Tales.
  • Gilligan Cut: When volunteers are sought to conduct a repair operation outside the still-submerged sub, Stumbo emphatically says "Fuck no!" Cut to Stumbo in diving gear with a put-upon look on his face, getting ready to enter the escape trunk...
  • Ghostly Goals: "We need... to turn... around..."
  • Good All Along: Winters is revealed to be this; at first his death is played off as him being killed trying to fish a souvenir out of the flotsam of the apparent German submarine tender, making him seem callous and greedy, which is only supported by Brice's story that he was actually killed because he wanted to execute German survivors. However, it actually turns out he was trying to stop Brice, Loomis, and Coors from executing the survivors because they were the ones trying to cover up the fact that they'd accidentally sank a British hospital ship rather than a German submarine tender as they originally thought.
  • Haunted Technology: The record player in the wardroom plays Benny Goodman at all the wrong times.
  • Jump Scare: One of the complaints about the movie was that it played too much by the numbers, both as a sub and a horror story.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Most of the crew are unaware of the Awful Truth.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A saboteur? Plain bad luck? Ocean Madness? A ghost? A lot of things could just be people seeing things, especially the three senior officers with their guilty conscience. There is also a mechanical explanation for everything that goes wrong with the submarine, but to have it all happen at once...
    • There is no saboteur, but the end implies it to be a combination of the last three.
  • Mirror Scare: A very subtle and unnerving one, as a crewman notices his reflection is doing exactly what he is doing, only delayed by about half a second. until he turns his back on the reflection, and he senses that the reflection is still staring at him.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Captain Winters, multiple times (though he’s not actually there—not physically, anyway) and Lieutenant Coors.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Implied with the Tiger Shark; near the climax, it turns back towards the sinking site of the British hospital ship and actively resists any attempts to correct its course, leading some members of the crew to believe the sub is suffering from a "malediction" brought about by the taking of so many innocent lives and the murder of its captain. The fact that the submarine apparently waits until all the surviving crew are off before sinking for good and coming to rest next to the ''Fort James'' and its captain's final resting place supports this theory.
  • Shirtless Scene: And even more. The sub comes under depth charge attack from a German destroyer while Loomis is in the shower.
  • Silent Running Mode: Yep, this movie has all the sub tropes.
  • Star Trek Shake: Averted. The crew is tossed around like ragdolls, even against the upper deck.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Each of the officers involved in the Awful Truth are shown to have blood on their hands at some point after the fact. Brice is shown washing the blood off his hands after killing the German POW. Loomis smashes his hand against a glass panel in a fit of rage and cuts it.
  • Together in Death: The Tiger Shark comes to rest near the wreck of the Fort James and Captain Winters' final resting place, implying its malediction was cured, allowing the souls of both ships, along with the Winters', to pass on to the afterlife together.
  • Twist Ending: Invoked by the crew of the Tiger Shark themselves. Hoag's explanation of all the unusual occurrences is that during the depth charge attack, their sub was actually sunk and they are all dead but just don't know it. Wally's response? "That's a good twist!"
  • Unusual Euphemism: Some of the Forties slang is pretty colourful: "skirt" and "bleeder" for a woman, for example.

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