Kate (Clémence Poésy) lives with her husband Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) in the upper level of a two-storey house in London, and they have a blessed event on the way as she is pregnant. Before this happened, she was not even sure she wanted to have children, but as the pregnancy has gone on she is more convinced than ever that she will be the best mother she can. The lower apartment of this house has been empty for some time, but when the couple get back from visiting the hospital for a routine scan they are surprised to see removal men are busying themselves around the place as someone is moving in. Later that week, they notice two pairs of shoes outside the new neighbours' door - should they introduce themselves?
So far, so mundane, but we can tell there is something a little awry here, a little off-kilter, which makes itself increasingly plain as the story draws on. This was the feature debut of screenwriter David Farr, who had previously distinguished himself as the author of cult action flick with teenage girl arrangement Hanna, and would go on to adapt the John Le Carré novel The Night Manager for television, with quite some acclaim. The Ones Below was, as per the title, further below the radar of most of the moviegoing public, though among those who did see it the reaction was generally positive, aside from some grumbling about the way it was wrapped up, but given what style it was in that was understandable.
Essentially, this was one of that thriller subgenre the creepy neighbours yarn, accompanied by another thriller variant, the "they’re driving me crazy!" chiller. Despite some deliberately unsettling revelations, Farr refused to go down the horror route or at least commit to that, so there was no gore and no last act climax where the characters started smashing each other about, which was refreshing seeing as how we had seen quite enough of those sorts of denouements in movies far lazier than this example. A potential flaw that we knew fine well that the main character was sane but put under so much pressure that they eventually snapped was circumvented when that emerged as the point.
The downstairs neighbours were played by David Morrissey and Laura Birn as Jon and Theresa respectively, and they are expecting a baby as well, which initially seems a nice excuse for the couples to bond and socialise. However, there is a scene early on where our unease begins to become concrete as it crystallises in Kate's mind when she and Justin invite their new pals to dinner and they behave a tad... unusually. Not feeling they are in any position to judge, they accept Jon's slightly overbearing interest in Kate's condition and the psychology she might be experiencing, and Theresa's habit of filling up her wineglass a few too many times to be strictly healthy, but then something happens that causes a ruction between the pairs, a sudden burst of over the top mania in the plot.
From then on we start to question Jon and Theresa's actions: was there an accident? Did they deliberately stage this incident? We are never really sure, not even when the end credits are rolling, though we are perfectly clear they had a scheme in mind immediately afterwards which does throw up a bunch of real world solutions for their predicament that could have been far easier to sort out, but then the spectre of madness would not be infecting the characters, and that was the overriding theme. Kate, who gives birth to a bouncing baby boy, gets over this abrupt breaking off of relations with the neighbours, but not for long as they start to inveigle their path back into her life and she's not altogether sure she wants them to be taking such a deep interest in her and her child. This was neatly creepy, the sense of polite concern on the surface masking a pathological need to meddle and control, then ultimately victimise, with an agenda that was plain to see but difficult to prove. This made The Ones Below a cut above your average low budget thriller, nothing shattering, but a decent show. Music by Adem Ilhan.