“The Ones Below” Review: Slow Burn Thriller Rises, But Only To A Certain Level

Courtesy of Protagonist Pictures
Courtesy of Protagonist Pictures

Tip: If you have a horror movie and you don’t know how to market it, add the word ‘below’ to the title. The downward (i.e. hellish) imagery will let everyone know immediately what your movie is.

The Ones Below is more of a thriller than a horror film, but the point still stands. The Ones Below is a pretty worthless title. Yes, the plot is centered around neighbors who move into the flat below the protagonists, but the title is still entirely misleading as to what type of movie this film is.

Acting mostly as a four-piece character drama, the film features two couples of appearing similarity. Kate and Justin (Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore, respectively) are the established couple on the top floor. Kate is blonde and pregnant. Justin is brunette and a little bit older. Theresa and Jon (David Morrissey and Laura Birn, but there ain’t no respect!) are the new couple who move into the bottom floor from Germany. Theresa is blonde and pregnant. Jon is brunette and a lot older. The two couples have a dinner party and something goes horribly, horribly wrong… you can see where things go from here.

Paranoia surrounds the film from start to finish. Kate, who is the lead character for all intents and purposes, makes a habit of watching others. While this isn’t hugely interesting for understanding Kate as a character, it allows for a convenient opportunity to check in on the other characters. This leads to an interesting tonal arc that shifts with the narrative. However, the dramatic music lets the audience know exactly what type of movie The Ones Below is from the start – perhaps a little too early.

The aesthetic quality to The Ones Below seems a bit off. It’s incredibly pretty, but it also seems a little bit too neat and clean. Perhaps this is because of the obvious comparison to Rosemary’s Baby, but the movie feels like it is desperately searching for a filmic quality that just isn’t there.

This is just such a shame because the rest of the film does such an awesome job at maintaining its diegetic image. The camerawork is fantastic and the costume/set design is on point. The actors even have shadows under their eyes when the characters are particularly exhausted.

Speaking of the actors, the performances in the film are pretty good! The movie deals a lot with silence, but the actors do an awesome job at communicating nonverbally. The sequence of events that occur escalate in an extreme manner, but the actors make sure that it comes across naturally.

At 86 minutes, the movie is pretty short. That said, the storyline is also pretty muted. Some of the moments are a little underdeveloped, whereas others are overdeveloped. However, while the structure is a bit iffy and questions are left unanswered at the end (despite a closing sequence that supposedly answers all of the questions), the film is a nice little slow burn. It is incredibly engaging and even a little emotionally impacting. It’s a small little indie and an enjoyable watch!

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