Review: “The Dark Below” – An Experience in Experimental Horror

Horror comes in all shapes and sizes. Large casts, one person locked in a casket, mansions, creatures, ghosts, serial killers and all the likes can make up our beloved genre. Sometimes a filmmaker has to step outside the box and do something completely different to capture the attention of the audience. Director Douglas Shulze not only stepped but leaped out of the box and plunged himself into some tense psychological and physical horror with his latest achievement The Dark Below

For those unaware of this festival favorite, The Dark Below tells the following story:

A woman struggles for survival beneath a frozen lake while a serial killer stalks her from the surface.

On the surface, it seems simple but when diving into the cold abyss that is The Dark Below you find an iceberg the size something Titanic would be afraid of.

Right off the bat, the audience is shown the capture of this woman who is immediately dressed in a wetsuit and thrown into the frozen lake. There is no introduction to the characters or any motive shown, just the brutality that will follow.  Through vivid flashbacks, the entire story eventually unfolds. Be careful as attention is needed for this strictly visual tale. Utilizing no dialogue, Shulze relies on his camera and talent to fill in the missing gaps.

The film centers around Lauren Mae Shafer who carries the entire film through her facial expressions and more importantly the response her body has to the situation. Considering her face is covered while in the lake, the pure terror comes from the eyes. Without someone like her in the driver seat, the film would have fallen flat but instead, it shined. Each and every emotion was felt. From the love in the flashbacks to the terror in the present Shafer made sure the audience knew what was happening. David G.B. Brown gave the assist in performance with his role as the serial killer. His insanity and presence as the antagonist are a true testament to who to fear in life.

As an experimental film with no dialogue, the camera was incredibly important. Shulze as director and Cinematographer Robert Skates utilized their talents in a flawless fashion. By creating visually stunning and captivating imagery, the story is pushed along using perspective and claustrophobia to make their statements.

When nobody speaks a word for the entirety of 80 minutes, the soundtrack and sound effects become incredibly important. The intense and bone-chilling soundtrack was provided by the incredibly talented multiplatinum recording artist Eric Bobo from Cypress Hill and The Beastie Boys. Vastly different than his percussion performances in his previous bands, The Dark Belows soundtrack is a wonder in tension building and synchronicity.

Experimental horror is a leap of faith and The Dark Below truly reaches a new peak with their stunning and talented cast and crew. Without their brilliance and the risk taken by Shulze, films like this would not be viewed. The Dark Below is for the advanced mind that craves cinema as an art not the spoon-fed child of a movie.

Taking over the festival circuit last year with appearances at Fantasia International Film Festival, FrightFest UK, Monsters of Film in Sweden and Toronto After Dark, the film accumulated praise from fans and critics alike. Now thanks to Parade Deck Films, you may have an opportunity to catch this intense experimental thriller in theaters on March 17 in Los Angeles and March 24 in New York. For more information be sure to follow PARADE DECK FILMS or THE DARK BELOW at their respective social media outlet.