PLOT: Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kate (Clémence Poésy) are a young couple happily awaiting the birth of their first child. When another expecting couple – the older banker Jon (David Morrissey) and his pretty European wife Theresa (Laura Birn) move into the vacant downstairs section of their duplex, they invite them over for dinner. The couple’s weird energy disturbs them, and an accident causes Theresa to lose her child. After the baby’s birth, Kate begins to suspect Lisa and Jon of coveting her son. Is this really happening or is she succumbing to her family’s history of mental illness?
REVIEW: I have a theory that no British film producer will greenlight a movie unless an actor from Harry Potter is on board. THE ONES BELOW does nothing to discredit this hypothesis, showcasing Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. So why is this tangent the intro to my review for THE ONES BELOW, you may ask? The simple answer is that it’s far more interesting than anything you’ll find in the film itself.
THE ONES BELOW is a frightfully typical psychological horror film. The directorial debut of HANNA screenwriter David Farr, you can tell that the film exists solely to showcase its script. The visuals are crafted with a decent sense of style, but without any idea of how to properly squeeze tension from what we’re seeing. The trouble is, on top of that, the script isn’t quite as unique as it seems to think it is. The slow-burn thriller is engaging enough, but it’s just INSIDE with all the edges blast-sanded off.
The true power behind THE ONES BELOW is its ensemble, who wring every last drop of skin-crawling tension from the script while the camera, staging, and score struggle to keep up. Clémence Poésy is a is a standout, crafting a likeable character with some dark edges, constantly defying audience expectations and even managing to sell a deeply unacceptable third act inanity. And do I even need to tell you that David Morrissey is good? The guy was The Governor, for crying out loud!
Laura Birn also excels as a chilly, inscrutable woman whose motivations are so cloudy, you almost believe the plot’s half-hearted ambiguity. The only cast member who doesn’t make an impression is Stephen Campbell Moore, who is saddled with the unenviable role of Asshole Husband Who Doesn’t Believe His Wife and Who is So Blisteringly Stupid That He Makes the Wrong Decision in Literally Every Single Situation. Think Micah Sloat in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Yeah, it’s that bad.
And while the film is a little clueless about composing exciting scares, it does nevertheless accomplish a certain stylish atmosphere. The production design is undoubtedly cheap, which leads to a bare bones set of apartment furnishings and a garden that somehow feels more stagey than the one in the final scene of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, but the film uses its simplicity to its advantage. Draped in warm pastels, the Spartan interiors and the radioactive green lawn feel like a too-perfect picture postcard from the 1950’s, an inviting aesthetic that delightfully undermines Kate’s growing paranoia.
However, despite Birn and Morrissey nailing a couple scenes that will curl your spine, there’s not much reason to seek out THE ONES BELOW. Everything it does it patently predictable, and everything it does well has been done better elsewhere. Do yourself a favor and just watch INSIDE again and leave it at that. Or better yet, birth a baby yourself. There are plenty of more horrifying prospects than THE ONES BELOW