David Farr, the man responsible for writing this script and choosing it as his feature directorial debut, is a talented guy. Because The Ones Below is often a bit nonsensical, yet Farr keeps it all moving along so well that viewers won’t necessarily start to realise just how nonsensical it all is until it’s over. And even then, even if you start to pick apart the plot and consider the lapses in logic, it’s still hard to deny that this is slick entertainment.
Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore are Kate and Justin, one of those many successful British couples that seem to populate so many British movies. They have a nice home, seem to have a decent amount of money, and are now expecting a baby. Everything seems to be aligning perfectly, especially when it turns out that the new neighbours below them (played by Laura Birn and David Morrissey) are also expectant parents. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse, in a sequence of events that see Kate and Justin blamed, and perhaps even surreptitiously terrorised, by the people they had hoped to befriend.
Although reminiscent on many occasions of the slick thrillers from the ’80s and ’90s that gave us psycho yuppies (Bad Influence), psycho lodgers (Pacific Heights), psycho nannies (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and also, I supposed, The Guardian), and psycho female flatmates (Single White Female), The Ones Below manages to take things to a darker place, ensuring that it tilts more into the horror genre. There’s an added vulnerability to the main characters, who are either depicted as being with child or looking after a newborn, and their mental state isn’t too far removed from that of any tired parent, making the small details and mainpulations all the more plausible.
Performances are good all round, although Morrissey is stuck playing someone who is always barely covering his anger and control issues. Birn is surprisingly likeable for most of the runtime, and Poésy soon garners sympathy as the events of the film start to take their toll on her. Moore tries to do his best but I guarantee at least one or two viewers will roll their eyes and/or be shouting at him as his character fails to give the necessary immediate support to his loved ones.
Although easy enough to dismiss as something ridiculous, and also fairly predictable, there’s enough done here to mark Farr out as someone worth keeping an eye on. He certainly knows how to make scenes feel uncomfortable and nasty without throwing around any gore or gratuitous violence (not that I’m opposed to any of that either), and I can imagine him creating a much stronger impression if he ever crafts himself a script that better enables him to more effectively ratchet up the tension while still allowing him to reveal certain twists with a certain amount of relish.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: DAVID FARR
STARS: CLÉMENCE POÉSY, LAURA BIRN, STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE, DAVID MORRISSEY
RUNTIME: 87 MINS APPROX