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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Ones Below (Blu-ray)
The Ones Below (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // September 6, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted September 22, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

British thriller The Ones Below steadily builds toward an unpleasant if not unexpected climax, and is most successful at creating a sense of dread throughout. Kate (Clemence Poesy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) live in the upstairs part of a London duplex and are excited when another young couple, Jon (David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn), moves in downstairs. Both couples are expecting a child, and Kate and Justin soon invite their downstairs neighbors for dinner. Something goes terribly wrong, and Jon and Theresa spend the remainder of the film psychologically tormenting their neighbors. Acid gurgled in my stomach from the moment the neighbors meet. If you dislike brutally awkward and passive torture, The Ones Below may trigger a meltdown. The acting here is superb, and Director David Farr (largely a theatre director, but he also wrote Hanna) ramps up the tension to a fever pitch.

A child in peril makes for great drama, and that is the crux of The Ones Below. Kate and Theresa go swimming soon after meeting, and Kate should have run for the hills. Theresa is oddly open with her new friend, and is far too comfortable baring her body and soul to Kate. Jon is a standoffish asshole from the get-go, in stark contrast to the friendly but oafish Justin. If you don't want to know any plot details, including early revelations, heed this Spoiler Alert! A burnt-out light bulb and skittish cat cause Theresa to tumble down the stairs, triggering a miscarriage. She and Jon return home angry, and Theresa accuses Kate of being undeserving of the life inside her. Theresa reveals that she and Jon tried to get pregnant for years, and knows that Kate and Justin sealed the deal quickly. The grieving couple leaves for Germany to regroup, but returns…different.

Kate gives birth to a healthy boy, and she and Justin struggle with sleepless nights and typical new-parent challenges. When Jon and Theresa return, they apologize for their earlier behavior, and Theresa begins keeping the baby every so often, to mixed results. She cuddles the baby, reads to him, breastfeeds without consent, and takes pictures to pass off as hers. Clearly, a screw is loose under those pretty blonde locks. Kate does not immediately notice something is amiss, because she is so damn tired. When she does wise up, Justin gets annoyed at her "paranoia," and Jon convinces no one that he is a normal, doting husband. To say things get awkward quickly is an understatement, and it becomes clear that Jon and Theresa have deep-rooted mental issues.

This is quite an effective, if slightly overlong, psychological thriller. Nothing otherworldly threatens the protagonist family, but the real, inexplicable villains below are all the more frightening. The four core actors are all excellent, particularly the women, who spar with consistent disdain for one another's characters. Morrissey is a champion at playing restless, sinister characters, and he is a powerful and overarching dictator here. Director Farr weaves in and out of domestic terror toward a climax that is effective if not unexpected. The Ones Below offers home-turf discontent, and overcomes narrative quibbles with dread and expectation.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is excellent. Fine-object detail and texture are strong, and offer intimate glimpses into the two core flats. Skin tones are accurate, colors are nicely saturated and black levels are steady. I did not notice any digital artifacts or shimmer, and this is a pleasing image overall.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is nuanced and effective. Dialogue is clear and free from distortion. There are plenty of ambient effects interwoven into the proceedings, and all elements are balanced appropriately. This is not a "gotcha" track, but it is subtly effective. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.

EXTRAS:

Creating a Cinematic Moment: Under the Bridge (2:59/HD) is a short discussion of an important scene. Going Below the Story (8:59/HD) sees Farr and company discuss the project's origins, and Behind the Cast and Characters (8:58/HD) offers the expected cast interviews. You also get Car Stunt: Breaking Down an Action Sequence (2:24/HD), which explores a scene that is not even in the final film, and a Theatrical Trailer (2:09/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This British thriller is heavy on uncomfortable domestic tension, and is buoyed by strong performances from the principal cast. The Ones Below builds toward an expected climax, but the queasy build-up is worth the price of admission. Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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