The chilling, spectral journey of BELOW first unfolded in the
mind of screenwriter Darren Aronofsky, renowned for such daring scripts as "Pi"
and "Requiem for a Dream." He envisioned a sophisticated haunted-house story âin the vein of those moody,
character-driven shockers from an earlier era â but this time set deep beneath the sea. When
director David Twohy was brought onto
the project, fresh from the stylish sci-fi thriller "Pitch
Black," starring Vin Diesel, he was immediately compelled by the potential to take both the submarine and
supernatural genres to places they had never gone before.
Says Twohy: "I think this story addresses one of the big
holes that always pops up in haunted house films â that is, why
don't just the characters just leave the house? But
once you're on a submarine, and you've got a German destroyer on top of you,
and you're unable to surface even though you're running out of air, the stakes completely
change. I felt that the sense of claustrophobia and psychological fear endemic to this set-up would add
something delicious and visceral to a supernatural thriller."
But rather than follow the conventions of either typical horror
or underwater action tales, Twohy immediately envisioned taking the shadowy, menacing
atmosphere of film noir and
sending it to the bottom of the ocean. "I didn't want to make a
monster movie where the enemy is obvious and out in the open," says Twohy. "I wanted to focus more
on the psychology of the situation, keeping the audience constantly guessing as to whether what's happening is
all just mind-games or has some supernatural cause."
He further explains: "Rather than showing and telling the
audience everything that's going on, I want to play with and tempt their imaginations to come up
with answers to the questions that are raised by the story." To accomplish this, Twohy played up
the natural perils of submarine travel â including the danger of
narcosis, a condition that in early
submarine battles, was noted for causing wild hallucinations and nightmarish visions that have
been compared to LSD. Once the crew is breathing in hydrogen, nothing they see, hear or think is
entirely trustworthy, or so they've been led to believe.
Twohy also mapped the inner psyches of each of the main
characters in order to bring their darkest individual secrets and hidden frights to the fore as the
story's harrowing events unfold. "The idea is that as the journey progresses, different fears are
projected unto each main character in the boat," he explains. "The audience starts off only
getting part of the picture, but slowly you begin to learn why these men are where they are, what's going on and
who's really in charge of the boat."
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