Blu-ray Review: The Ones Below

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The Ones Below is a sturdily-crafted psychological thriller that utilizes a relatively realistic scenario to create a sense of dread, rather than employing any supernatural elements. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Cambell Moore) are expecting their first child. So is the new couple in the apartment below them, Teresa (Laura Birn) and Jon (David Morrissey). While Kate and Justin seem like well-adjusted folks eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new family member, Teresa cowers under Jon's domineering attitude. She drinks alcohol freely despite expecting, though Jon somehow doesn't realize. He left his first wife because she couldn't have children. Jon is scarily obsessed with the idea of fathering a child.

To discuss further, a mild "spoiler alert" needs to be mentioned, though this development happens early on. Teresa loses her child after an accidental fall down a flight a stairs following a dinner at Kate and Justin's apartment. Jon and his wife irrationally blame Kate and Justin, but instead of taking any legal action they simply move out of the U.K. to Germany. Once Kate's baby is born healthy, the couple moves back in downstairs (apparently the lease terms are very flexible and the landlord has a tough time renting that unit). An apology is issued to the new parents, an apparently understanding is reached between couples, and a friendship begins to re-develop. But a series of strange incidents involving the baby may or may not be a result of intervention by Jon and Teresa. Justin points toward his wife's history of mental illness as an explanation, however, even though we haven't really seen Kate acting in an unusual fashion previously.

The story unfolds at a steady, reliable pace, but a significant problem emerges in writer-director David Farr's narrative. We're initially led to believe Kate and Justin are perceptive, intelligent people. Why they so readily accept Teresa and Jon back into their lives is not entirely believable. What is even less believable is their continued acceptance of Teresa as a babysitter to their infant son, even when it becomes rather obvious they may not be receiving the best care. The Ones Below is consistently unsettling and the performances are uniformly solid. But in the end there isn't any depth to the psychological torment that Kate and Justin are experiencing. The scenario is realistic enough, but their reactions to what's happening around them are not.

No problems to report regarding Magnolia Pictures' Blu-ray, which offers a satisfactory 1080p transfer of Ed Rutherford's cinematography. The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Special features includes a strange featurette, "Breaking Down an Action Sequence," which details the filming of a car accident scene that is not in the movie nor included as a deleted scene. There are a few behind-the-scenes featurettes that total about 20 minutes and give us a slightly deeper look at writer-director Farr's film.

The Ones Below is creepy enough (and well acted enough) to hold interest for its 86-minute running time. It's a minor piece, however, without a whole lot of repeat-viewing value.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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