The Dark Below starts with an assault: A man drugs a woman and dumps her in a frozen lake with just a wetsuit and an oxygen tank. While that idea might have been an intriguing horror opener, the film also immediately assaults the viewer, its incidents coated in an eyesore of a veneer that suggests the pornographic.
Morbid curiosity, or perhaps sadomasochism, might make one stick around for the rest of this 75-minute feature: The concept of a killer stalking his freezing, drowning prey could be thrilling, and director Douglas Schulze isn’t completely devoid of ideas. He builds context with flashbacks and uses only a single line of dialogue, relying on visual and musical cues. The problem — aside from the movie being simple and gimmicky — is in the execution — Schulze’s, not the villain’s.
Mind if I spoil the sole line of dialogue? It’s “love is cold,” uttered by the assailant (David G.B. Brown) as he pushes Rachel (Lauren Mae Schafer) — his wife, turns out — into the lake. It’s impossible not to laugh at, but the rest of the movie isn’t even redeemable in a so-bad-it’s-funny way. Brown’s acting is all Richard B. Spencer haircut and psycho eyes, and the overbearing horror score just adds to the parodic nature. Veronica Cartwright stars as Rachel’s mother, prompting the question: How did an actress with The Birds, Alien, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers to her name end up in this situation? The cruelest thing, though, is that The Dark Below could’ve easily been half the length — and half the waste of time — if Schulze hadn’t used slo-mo in nearly every scene.
The Dark Below
Directed by Douglas Schulze
Parade Deck Films
Opens March 24, Cinepolis Chelsea
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 22, 2017