Stars: Laura Mae Shafer, David G.B. Brown, Veronica Cartwright, Zachary Levine, Seraphina Anne Zorn, Tiffany Burns | Written by Douglas Schulze, Jonathan D’Ambrosio | Directed by Douglas Schulze
“Silence is the most powerful scream.”
Rachel (Lauren Mae Shafer) is on the run from a serial killer (David G.B. Brown). I say run, I mean swim. She was drugged, dressed in scuba gear and then plunged in to the depths of a nearby frozen lake to drown. Unfortunately for the killer however, Rachel is something of a seasoned diver and won’t go down (or should that be sank?) without a fight. With her killer stalking her on the surface, Rachel must not only constantly outwit him, but also survive the freezing temperatures as well as literally keeping a float.
Now before you call me a cop out regarding my somewhat brief synopsis, let me just tell you that The Dark Below is only around 70 minutes long and although pieces of the jigsaw start falling in to place regarding the story within the first 20 minutes, a film like this can be easily ruined. Films like this are also incredibly hard to review in the first place, especially when your audience (hopefully) have never seen the film in question.
With that out of the way, I can tell you that The Dark Below is a truly unique piece of filmmaking. The story is interchanged with flashbacks throughout to give us a sense of just what exactly is going on and why perhaps, Rachel is being put through this horrific ordeal. These are used very effectively. All in all, the tone of the film is very bleak. Bleak and extremely claustrophobic, if you are scared of the idea of drowning, you will definitely feel uneasy here. You can feel the the cold. From the setting to the underwater cinematography and of course, the subtle make up effects. All of it gels together beautifully. One of the biggest things going for this film is the use (and sometimes lack of) sound. The score from David Bateman has great range from moments of overbearing dread and tension to heart-pounding moments of frantic energy. With no dialogue at all, the music really helps set the mood. All in all, this is a great exercise in sound design.
I mentioned that there was no dialogue, something hard to pull off by even the greatest of directors and actors. You do see characters communicating with each other and you can’t exactly make out what is being said, but thanks to the acting, you know exactly what is going on. Everyone puts in a great performance no matter how vital or trivial their role.
My only gripe with the whole film is the length, Even though The Dark Below is just short of 70 minutes, I felt it did tend to drag in places. It didn’t kill the atmosphere of the film or anything like that, but I can’t help but feel that this story could have been condensed slightly and perhaps would be even more suited as part of anthology film. That being said, I can’t really fault this too much at all.
If you want a completely unique experience that does deliver, The Dark Below is one for you.
The Dark Below opens on Friday March 17th in L.A. and Friday March 24th in NYC, with additional cities following suit.