How well do you know your neighbours? Are you actually living next to murderous psychopathic folk, hiding behind friendly inviting faces? The FBI estimates that, in the US, there are between 25 and 50 serial killers operating at any given time. And most of them have gotta live somewhere – so it’s not entirely implausible that you live next to a killer. But, this isn’t exactly an original premise in cinema. Films like Rear Window and Disturbia have covered this before, so what could another entry in this genre possibly bring to the table?
Out now on DVD, The Ones Below isn’t particularly original on the surface. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) are expecting their first child together, and living a charmed life in the upper flat of a building. When a similar couple - Jon (David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn), also expecting a child – move in downstairs, the two couples become friends. But when a freak accident kills Theresa’s unborn child, she and Jon start getting a little too close to Kate and Justin’s child…
Elements of The Ones Below are entirely predictable and it’s fairly obvious from the off that Jon and Theresa are rather strange people. In their first scene with Kate and Justin, they don’t exactly help themselves by behaving in an unusual manner - Jon’s short temper quickly comes to light, while Theresa’s odd actions don’t go unnoticed by the viewer. And yet it doesn’t seem to bother Kate, who quickly becomes dependent on the grief-stricken and maternal freak Theresa for baby-sitting! This is a little far-fetched; even the most exhausted mothers aren’t that blind. This woman clearly wants to steal your baby, Kate. Get your head in the game. It sure is hard to sympathise with a protagonist who is this stupid!
Anyway, this film belongs to David Morrissey and Laura Birn, whose frighteningly intense performances drive the film and keep you on the edge of your seat – despite the fact you will probably have a pretty good idea where it’s going. David Morrissey further proves himself as a believable monster after his unforgettable performance in The Walking Dead, while Laura Birn’s scares are a little more understated – her haunting stares and over-the-top friendliness hide evil below. Clémence Poésy is great as the increasingly paranoid Kate while Stephen Campbell Moore is the weak link in the rather one-dimensional husband role.
But the plot predictability doesn’t necessarily negate the thrills of The Ones Below. I was worried about spoiling certain elements of the film in this review, but I realised that there’s not a lot to spoil anyway. Watch the trailer, or read the back of the DVD case, and you can probably work out where it’s going. But there are still a few unexpected turns in there, and the quality of the film means the lack of surprise in the twist doesn’t affect the enjoyment. It’s like rewatching an old thriller you’ve seen before. You know the ending, but it’s still good. That’s exactly the case here.
The Ones Below won’t go down as one of the best films in the genre, and it won’t stick in your mind after you’ve watched it. But for a low-budget thriller, it really isn’t bad. The cinematography is hauntingly beautiful, creating a strong sense of dread and impending doom even when you know it’s going that way anyway. The screenplay, although predictable, takes some interesting turns. The acting is great – especially from Morrissey and Birn who steal every scene.
Of course, The Ones Below will never sit beside Rear Window (it’s a lot better than fucking Disturbia, though) – but it should keep you enthralled for its short 80 minute runtime. And with such plot simplicity, it doesn’t exactly demand much attention.
The Ones Below lacks originality, but delivers its predictable story with style. 3/5
The Ones Below at CeX
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