Set in the frozen tundra of Alberta, Canada, BELOW ZERO is a dreamlike fantasy, painting a black nightmare under a white blanket of snow.
Eddie Furlong plays Jack, a struggling screenwriter. Under immense pressure from his agent to finish a new script, he heads to a remote slaughterhouse to find inspiration, and hopefully force words onto paper. Holed up in a meat locker with only the necessities, our hero finally begins to write. But just as things start looking up, Jack becomes aware of another presence sharing his desolate habitation. Is it his eccentric host Penny, looking to be a burr under his saddle? Is it someone with more nefarious intentions? Or is it simply Jack himself, slowly losing the distinction between fiction and reality?
I always feel like…some Pluto’s watching me…
A taut psychological thriller, BELOW ZERO plays like a Richard Matheson-penned episode of The Twilight Zone. However, despite the numerous twists and turns sprinkled throughout, the ending bypasses the typical “gotcha!” reveal, instead opting for a more calculated, almost surreal conclusion. I can appreciate the rare twist ending that’s executed well, but the final act of BELOW ZERO encourages discussion, interpretation, and a craving for Kari Wuhrer (that last part might just be me). Hats and pants off to screenwriter Signe Olynyk – but only when appropriate.
Supporting the strong story is a diverse cast of cinematic newcomers and genre stalwarts. Considering BELOW ZERO is, for the most part, a dialogue-driven character study – not to mention a low-budget indie – a strong effort from your cast is essential. Michael Berryman, in particular, gives the performance of a lifetime. I love BEASTMASTER 2, WEIRD SCIENCE, and THE LAST STARFIGHTER, but those particular roles never afforded Mr. Berryman the opportunity to truly show off his chops as a thespian. Gunnar might be another psycho to add to a long and distinguished list of homicidal maniacs, but Berryman brings an element of empathy and inner turmoil I didn’t know he was capable of. Hopefully, BELOW ZERO will provide a launch pad for more multi-dimensional characters in the future – though, in Wes Craven’s defense, having Pluto do a Shakespearean soliloquy in the middle of THE HILLS HAVE EYES would’ve probably been unnecessary.
“Is it safe?”
After having nailed two critical elements of strong filmmaking, BELOW ZERO brings it all home with a spit and polish that rivals most big budget Hollywood fare. Simply put: The cinematography is amazing. Granted, it doesn’t hurt that the town of Edson is so picturesque, but Norm Li’s work here is second to none.
Check this one out, Bastards. BELOW ZERO is a tight little flick that’s not only fun, but also provides a little something to chew on afterwards. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Signe Olynyk, Bob Schultz, and the talented folks at Man in a Box Pictures.
CLICK THE PICTURE AND LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR