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Dustin Putman

The Ones Below  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: September 6, 2016) – There is something to be said for a simple, direct thriller, unfettered by overplotting and needless complications beyond the ones which make the story so tense and unsettling in the first place. "The Ones Below," the directorial debut of David Farr (screenwriter of 2011's "Hanna"), is such a suspenser, foregoing darkness and shadows for troubling psychopathy happening in the light of day. Clémence Poésy (2008's "In Bruges") is quite good as Kate, a first-time mother-to-be whose friendship with new downstairs neighbors Theresa (Laura Birn) and Jon (David Morrissey) takes a terrible turn when a freak accident causes Theresa to miscarry her own unborn baby. Theresa and Jon do not mince words in blaming Kate and her beau, Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore), for the fatal occurrence, but after returning from a sojourn to deal with their grief and clear their minds they are quick to apologize for their behavior. A relationship slowly begins to rebuild between the couples, but, as Kate comes to discover, not all is as it seems for two marrieds who seem to be coveting Kate and Justin's newborn son.

"The Ones Below" is fairly standard in its A-to-Z trajectory—comparisons to 1990's "The Guardian" and 1992's "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" are warranted—but it is an effective "...From Hell" potboiler all the same. While Kate's desire to continue being friendly with Theresa—even allowing her to babysit her child—strains credibility in light of the nasty verbal blows they come to following the accident, writer-director David Farr foregoes overt violence and to-the-death showdowns for a quietly encroaching wave of paranoia as Kate begins to suspect she and her baby are in serious danger. One wishes more layers could have been brought to the deceptively personable Theresa, but Laura Birn (2014's "A Walk Among the Tombstones") is chilling precisely because of her helpful, smiling façade. And, if the appropriately prickly ending arguably explains too much in lieu of its initial enigmatic suggestions, it still makes for a grimly stirring closer. "The Ones Below" cannot attest to having the most original of plots. It is an effective film, however, one that ever more tightens its compellingly diabolical grip.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Ones Below" is a standout almost from the very start of its 1080p transfer. There may be a slightly antiseptic, almost beige tone to its digital photography, but it works well for this particular picture. Even more so than the excellent detail and clarity of the image—from the single strands of Kate's hair to the texture to the various apartment surfaces and textures—is its dimensionality. An early shot of the exterior of Kate's multi-leveled duplex is eye-opening in its depth, looking like one could step through the television and right into the setting. Short of a 4K UHD disc, viewers would be hard-pressed to imagine this high-def transfer looking any better than it does here. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio doesn't often get a chance to show off—this is a quiet, dialogue-driven film, after all—but proficiently handles the various components of the mix.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Creating a Cinematic Moment: Under the Bridge" Featurette (2:59, HD)
  • "Going Below the Story" Featurette (8:59, HD)
  • "Behind the Cast and Characters" Featurette (8:59, HD)
  • "Car Stunt: Breaking Down an Action Sequence" Featurette (2:24, HD) – A strange inclusion, considering it is a brief walk-through of the making of a scene cut from the finished film
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:09, HD)
Bottom Line
"The Ones Below" is a well-crafted thriller, low-key yet definitely unnerving. Magnet Releasing's Blu-ray release is strong all around, with the picture presentation especially impressive. Recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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