HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Ones Below
HTS Overall Score:73
It’s always sad to see something that COULD have been so good turn out rather weakly. “The Ones Below” was penned by David Farr, the same man who wrote the thrilling spy movie, “Hanna”, as well as the slow burn spy series “The Night Manager” that I reviewed not more than a week ago. Both of which were REALLY good for their genres. So this little reviewer was MORE than happy to see his take on a horror/thriller this time involving a creepy couple downstairs in jolly old England. Let’s just say that I walked away HUGELY disappointed. Not because it was so abysmal, but because “The Ones Below” turned out to be completely and utterly mediocre. There are moments of intelligence and creepiness here and there, but most of the time it just ended up being bland and uninteresting. The plot flowed along smoothly, but everything seemed telegraphed a mile away, and the “shocking” ending is only shocking if you have been asleep the entire movie.
Taking up the mantle of a minimalist chamber film, “The Ones Below” focus on pregnant couple Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his lovely wife Kate (Clemence Poesy), where they reside in an upper/under house in the more posh side of London. They are as happy as a clam with their pregnancy and getting ready for delivery when a new couple moves in downstairs. The wife, Tessa (Deborah Findlay) is also pregnant and expecting, while her much old husband, Jon (David Morrissey) works the upscale side of the city. The two women immediately hit it off and soon are hanging out on a regular basis, until tragedy strikes one night. During a dinner party Tessa stumbles down the stairs and ends up having a miscarriage, devastating the couple. In a furious rage Tess and Jon blame the dim lighting in Justin and Kate’s upstairs section of the house and rip apart the friendship.
Months later the couple seems to have moved on, but there is tension between the pairs. Justin and Kate have their child, while Jon and Tessa do their best to go on with life. Soon time starts to heal old wounds and the two ladies begin a timid friendship once more. Only this time there seems to be something wrong. Kate watches Tessa’s actions and notices little quirks, and little tells that seem to belay a hidden motivation lurking under the surface. A motivation that drives Kate nearly to the breaking point as she struggles to protect her child. A motivation that will ultimately lead to a horrible decision that will upset the balance in her already swirled around life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79050[/img]As I said, “The Ones Below” is a very minimalist film. It takes places 95% of the time in either the upstairs or downstairs section of the Georgian split house. There are a few moments where we get to see more of the landscape, but a majority of the time it is very tightly contained within the two couple’s abodes. There is elements of “Rosemary’s Baby” thrown into the mix, with a tad of “Play Misty for Me” and even some of “Baby Blues” to boot. There is this Polankski’ish score humming throughout the short runtime that tries and puts a layer of tension through every situation, leading up to the rather clichéd ending. Sadly each of these things have been seen before, and are handled in a rather pedestrian manner. Something which completely puzzles me due to how unique and interesting most of David Farr’s writing work is to date. He doesn’t have an ENORMOUS library of work, but just about everything he has written has been very cleverly crafted and well done. This is what puzzles me the most.
Everything in the movie just “happens”. Even though there is supposed to be tension that you can cut with a knife, I literally felt like there was none. It was like watching a documentary unfold as the pace just slowly oozed by and the audience already knew how the movie was going to turn out. It doesn’t take a genius to predict each of the curves and turns of the film, down to even the double backing “twist” ending that really surprises no one but the comatose. Now, don’t get me wrong. The film is not abysmal or horrible. In fact the acting by all 4 of the leads is competently done and leave little to complain about. It’s just the fact that “The Ones Below” turned out so bland and suspense-less in a genre that NEEDS suspense to survive.
Rated R for language, some sexuality and nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79058[/img]I can’t tell whether “The Ones Below” is filmed digitally or on ACTUAL film, but I’m getting mixed information from my research. Some sources claim it was digital, while I’ve read a few others claiming that it was shot on 35 mm film and then transferred to a DCP, which I could actually see as the movie looks more filmic than it does digital. The 1.85:1 framed film looks quite nice on Blu-ray, with a glossy and brilliantly brightened look that seems to be the rage these days. The film doesn’t look like it has brightness cranked way up, but rather that all the whites in the film seem to be blooming at all times and create a halo effect around everything even remotely white. Colors can be fine, but skin tones look a bit greyed and hazy, leaving the background to switch from moments of crisp clarity to ever so slightly gauzy. Black levels are solid, with some signs of washing out as a result of the blooming white, but overall shows off nice shadow detail and no signs of crush. It’s a good looking picture, and compliments David Farr’s visual style to a T. Especially the garden scenes with Tessa in her yellow outfit (just watch it, it very much reminds me of David Lynch during those moments).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79066[/img]The creepy, almost Roman Polanski inspire, score is quite nice for the film, and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is effective and very impressive, despite being a very limited track by the very nature of being in an enclosed room for a majority of the film. Dialog is the main focus once more, and it does not let us down in the slightest. Vocals are crisp and clean (although spoken very softly at times, making the English accents a bit difficult to make out for my American ears), and the mild dynamic range is quite fitting for the genre at hand. There’s a few bumps and crashes in the film to light up the surrounds, but much of the surround activity is limited to the haunting score. The same thing goes for the LFE channel, with the majority of its presence being limited to the score and those few crashes and bangs. It’s a simple, and very constrained track, but it does everything asked of it without showing faults.
• Going Below The Story
• Behind the Cast & Characters
• Creating a Cinematic Moment: Under The Bridge
• Car Stunt: Breaking Down An Action Sequence
• Theatrical Trailer
I mildly enjoyed “The Ones Below” and love the very David Lynch crafting of the minimalistic film, but sadly was heavily frustrated by what seems like a film that thrives on tension and mystery just lay open like a well-worn book. Davd Farr’s slow burn writing may be at fault, or his direction, but either way I would have loved to have seen his writing done by a difference director, as something obviously fell through on the cutting room floor. It’s well acted, and well set, but the actual delivery just sputters and falter (especially in the third act). To Farr's credit it is a very visually engaging film, and his visual cues are superb. Audio and video look very nice, but the extras are a tad slim. Worth a rental.
Starring: Clémence Poésy, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore
Directed by: David Farr
Written by: David Farr
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 86 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Buy The Ones Below On Blu-ray at Amazon
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