When a movie that so clearly lifts its inspiration from the films of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, I would have expected to simply embrace this film for the nail-biting thriller it is attempting to be. Instead I found myself sitting back wondering why I just couldn’t get into this film. Is it because the storyline seems uninspired? Whatever it is when it comes to The Ones Below, it may hit all the right notes when it comes to what to expect with a thriller, but that’s the problem; it plays everything by the book and doesn’t dare to take unexpected twists.
Kate (Clemence Poesy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) are a happy couple living alone in an upstairs flat in London with a baby on the way. When they notice that they have new neighbors who have moved into the space below them; it of course comes as a surprise to see that they too are a couple expecting to have their first child. The new neighbors are Theresa (Laura Birn) and her husband Jon (David Morrissey). There is something off about the couple right from the start, and when Kate and Justin invite their new neighbors to dinner, you don’t have to hold your breath too long before things go awry. When an accident occurs that causes Theresa to lose the baby, as a viewer we can already expect things to go bad, since Jon and Theresa seem to blame Kate and Justin for their loss, but what follows just kind of seems silly rather than menacing.
After Kate and Justin have their baby, this is when we get to see Theresa and Jon become creepy, accommodating neighbors who wish to help out with the new baby in any way they can. Most couples I believe would inquire about new locks and possibly a new place to stay, but instead Kate and Justin open up their home and are willing to let their neighbors help out with the care of the baby.
Slowly Kate begins to catch on that there is something not right about her neighbors, and leave it to the husband to not believe her and insist that she is only being paranoid. What’s frustrating is that even though Kate knows something isn’t right, she continues to let her neighbors into her life and around her baby; it just makes no sense.
On the technical side of things, first-time director David Farr does do an admirable job at executing an enjoyable thriller, only it’s a shame he relies so heavily on previous thrillers in the past, and as a result the payoff just isn’t there. The style very much falls in line with the thrillers we’ve seen from Polanski, having the locked static shot does give us the fly on the wall as certain scenes play out, but a lot of this film is dependent upon the performance of the cast, and to a point everyone delivers, but the film still left me wanting more. Poesy does great as the mother who is slowly breaking down over the course of the film, and in the rare moments that Morrissey gets to be menacing he shines, but there are not enough of these moments to take this film to the next level.
The Ones Below is presented in the aspect ratio 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 19 mbps. The look of the film seems to be a little uneven. The whites seem to be cranked a little high, where at times we get a halo effect around certain objects. At other times it seems when Kate and Justin are together there appears to be more warmth on the screen, and the whites don’t appear so cranked. There is surprisingly a lot of detail captured in the foreground, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of depth to the image when the film leaves the confines of the apartment.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is rather low-key considering it is a thriller. Usually with these films you expect a lot of stingers for jump scares, but instead it relies more on the story. Dialog is clear throughout, and the score is unobtrusive but is there. What are cleverly used are the subtle noises we hear throughout, everything from alarms to Kate and Justin’s cat.
Going Below The Story: (8:59) With behind-the-scenes snippets, we get insight from the director about how the story came together.
Behind the Cast and Characters: (8:59) Interviews with the cast as they discuss the characters they play in the film.
Creating a Cinematic Moment: (2:59) A brief look at them shooting one of the film’s memorable moments.
Car Stunt: Breaking Down an Action Sequence (2:24) I wouldn’t say this is an action sequence, but it shows the work that goes into a stunt scene.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids that this film isn’t all that effective on me, because I’ve talked to others that enjoyed it more than I did. I wouldn’t say the film is bad; I just feel there is not enough original material to impress me much, and it doesn’t help that the storyline is ridiculously predictable from the start. But if you’re a new parent and are looking for a film that will make you paranoid about the intentions of those wanting to hold your baby, this may be up your alley.