Review: THE ONES BELOW
I am a sucker for maternal thrillers. From ’90s popcorn thrillers like THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE to the brutal extremism of INSIDE, crazy mothers hit a soft spot for me and part of it may be due to the fact that the motivation is right there. There’s no need for an extensive backstory when the loss of a child is involved. The audience gets it. While the premise of THE ONES BELOW may sound like a familiar trope, writer/director David Farr knows how to utilize his unique style to provide a slow burn of a thriller that will keep the anxiety levels high.
Kate (Clemence Poesy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) are 18 weeks into their pregnancy when they get neighbors in the form of Jon (David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn) who are also expecting. Theresa is persistent on spending time with Kate, with a smile so transparent it makes everyone uneasy. Theresa doesn’t work nor wants to, but her role in the relationship is that of child bearer as it’s put out there that Jon’s previous marriage didn’t work out due to his ex-wife being unable to have children. Jon’s personality is pretty dominant and causes tension between the two couples especially when he and Theresa come for a dinner invite. It’s at that same dinner that a series of events occur and their friendship takes a turn. Kate gives birth to her son, leading to a new type of relationship between her and Theresa. We get small glimpses into Kate’s family history and question whether her paranoia (or really our paranoia) is valid.
Farr really toys with the audience, showcasing moments where things could possibly go terribly wrong, but makes us feel silly when they don’t. On top of this, the baby is keeping them up all hours of the night as a car alarm in the street likes to blare at the most inconvenient hours. Every new parent can relate to the stress and we get a front row seat to the awful joy of your first born. You do question though how much of a coincidence certain occurrences are as the timing of everything just seems off.
The Blu-ray comes with a series of featurettes with a behind the scenes look at the making of THE ONES BELOW. Farr, in particular, offers significant insight on his inspirations for the film and a breakdown of how specific scenes were filmed. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track delivers with a score reminiscent of the ROSEMARY BABY’s lullaby. This is not a movie with any jump scares and might not cause you to be afraid of the dark, but the audio elements assist in creating a tense environment when certain characters are sharing screen time.
THE ONES BELOW is a slick and suspenseful thriller that no new mother should watch. It doesn’t do any favors for anyone who doesn’t trust their neighbors, but makes you think twice before assuming someone is out to hurt you. I’m surprised this didn’t get a theatrical release here in the States as throughout the movie I kept imagining vocal audience reactions to some of the more fucked up moments. Word of mouth will surely help this build an fanbase for those who love a quiet yet sinister thriller.