Review: “If There’s A Hell Below” Makes Its Viewers Wait For A Pay Off That Doesn’t Exist
I’m always up for watching a slow-burn thriller. A slow-burn thriller that forgets to do anything with its story? That’s a horse of a different color. If you’re going to make me sit through an hour and a half of mostly dialogue then I’m going to want something more to really make the movie memorable. Unfortunately “If There’s A Hell Below” seemed to have been building towards something bigger than the whole bunch of nothing I ended up receiving; leaving me unimpressed with the final product and wanting my time back.
The film starts off with whistleblower Debra (Carol Roscoe) and young journalist, Abe (Conner Marx), driving to a secluded location that both have agreed to doing their interview at months in advance. When she’s about to begin divulging the information that could get her in a lot of trouble if someone found out, a mysterious car appears not too far away from them and spooks Debra out to the point where they have to leave the area. Once the car is thought to be nothing more than just a farmer’s left out at the end of a driveway, it begins following them and the film’s tension starts to amp up. Whatever information Debra has, it’s obvious someone doesn’t want it getting out. And while Abe thinks it’s just her being too paranoid, Debra knows something he and the audience doesn’t: just how much trouble the both of them are really in.
Christopher Messina’s cinematography is the best thing going for this film. Beautiful shots of quiet landscapes, windmills casting long shadows on the horizon, a feeling of serenity that is the polar opposite of what’s really going on. While the film is being driven mostly by dialogue, Messina keeps our eyes busy as we wonder what could be lurking just beyond the hills that seem to stretch on forever. It adds this sense of mystery to the story that would have been more effective had something actually ended up happening. Instead it’s all we’re left with to enjoy about the film as Matthew and Nathan Williams’s script forgets to fill the viewer in on what is going on.
There are times in a movie when open-ended final sequences can raise the story to a different height, can leave questions for the viewers to decide on for themselves, and end up adding a sense of mystery and intrigue to the whole thing. “If There’s A Hell Below” feels like the Williams’s just got bored of their own story and rushed the ending to an otherwise interestingly paced movie. We never find out who is actually after Debra and Abe, who the characters actually are themselves, and we’re given two long-winded stories (one in the middle of the film and what at the end) that feel like they’re supposed to be connected but actually aren’t. The filmmakers got the tension down perfectly; now they should work on getting the story part perfected.