Thursday, December 8, 2016

IF THERE'S A HELL BELOW (2016) (DVD Review)

IF THERE'S A HELL BELOW (2016)

Label: Dark Sky Films

Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Nathan Williams
Cast: Carol Roscoe, Conner Marx, Mark Carr, Paul Budraitis


Synopsis: Abe’s an ambitious young journalist hungry for a story that will launch his career. Debra works in national security and has a serious revelation to leak. In a few minutes, they will meet for the first time. Bathed in paranoia, IF THERE’S A HELL BELOW is a cinematic journey down a rabbit hole of betrayal and surveillance where credibility is the only measure of trust, and the fate of one life or millions may hang in the balance. Featuring standout performances from its two leads, director Nathan Williams’s political thriller is a tense, unnerving exploration of the use and abuse of power and the terrifying ramifications it has when held in the wrong hands.

Every once in awhile I will stray outside the realm of obscure cult, horror and exploitation to the delight of my wife who loathes the copious amounts of sleaze and gore I usually subject her to. 
It's the little well-crafted indies like If There's a Hell Below (2016) that keep me straying outside my comfort zone, this ne is an atmospheric political thriller about a small-time newspaper reporter named Abe (Conner Marx, Z-Nation, journalist hoping to break it big when a national security insider named Debra (Carol Roscoe)reaches out to him for an exclusive story sure to blow the lid off of... something. They clandestinely meet up on the back roads of what appears to be the sun-drenched South West, Debra is in full-on paranoia mode, a bit of a conspiracy nut, or so it would seem, taking numerous precautions to ensure that the story she is about to dump on Abe will not be recorded, that her gender and job specifics are not revealed, that her safety is ensured. 


The movie is small, but the scope is wide, and also a bit rambling in a weird way, seemingly aiming to tackle a post-Snowden story with a movie that sort of channels Francis Ford Coppola's paranoid classic The Conversation (1974) by way of the scenic menace of Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973), a claustrophobic thriller contrasted with some eye-pleasing prairie panorama that is nicely lensed by cinematographer Christopher Messina. The dialogue exchanges between Marx and Roscoe are appropriately awkward for two people who have only just met, they go on weird tangential stories as they struggle to trust one another, and then there's Debra's paranoia ...which at first seems overly extreme, but when a SUV shows up on the scene it seems maybe she wasn't paranoid enough. 

In a weird non-derogatory way I would say that the movie plays out like a mumblecore political thriller, very indie, low-budget, dialogue driven, but also very captivating. If it were not for an opening scene that promised a certain amount of menace you'd be left wondering if Debra's worries about big brother watching are imaginary, but soon enough you know that something is seriously up, we're not sure what exactly she's about to spill, but it becomes clear that someone doesn't want the beans spilled and are willing to go to extremes to prevent that from happening, and it made for a good watch. 

DVD Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Nathan Williams, Cinematographer Christopher Messina, and Actor Connor Marx
- Behind-The-Scenes (3 Mins) 
- Alternate Ending with Optional Writer/Director Commentary(7 Mins) 
- Trailer (2 Mins) 

It was a good watch, the build up is a bit of a slow-burn and the final act didn't quite do it for me, but I liked it. If you enjoy a quietly intense thriller with a decent amount of tension and dread with an ending that keeps a certain mystery about it then I say check this one out. 3/5

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