Release length: 1:34:00
The main concept behind Below Zero is that writer Jack (Edward Furlong) is sent to Canada by his agent to be locked in a slaughterhouse to help him write a new script. He is taken there by Penny (Kristin Booth) and her son when she nearly drives into a herd of cows before reaching their destination. Once safely there, Penny shows Jack the layout, then locks him up. The longer he is there, the more sanity he begins to lose as someone begins typing in another room, and things disappearing and appearing during his sleep, such as his laptop being replaced with a typewriter, and an upside down pig carcass hanging near his bed.
The story Jack writes is about a tow truck driver named Frank (also played by Edward Furlong), who gets into an accident and wanders into a slaughterhouse looking for help, and is trapped inside. He finds a social worker named Paige (also played by Kristin Booth), and the two begin their struggle to survive in the freezer, and from the owner, Gunnar (Michael Berryman, known for his role as “Pluto” in The Hills Have Eyes). Reality and the script begin shifting between each other through effects like a white out and cheap film grain effect, and fantasy begins to intrude on Jack with Penny hanging in his room one day, finding they have until the end of the deadline to write a hit or her son will die, and the temperature will continue to drop every hour.
This is where things continue to escalate for the worst. The established story continues to be altered between the two, and the shift between fiction and reality continues to shift. When the script is done, more twists are thrown your way, leading to a couple different endings that leaves you confused as to exactly what you even watched. Are they dead? Is it all a script? Is Jack a manipulator? Is Gunnar the agent? Are they really trapped in the slaughterhouse with a killer? All of these questions are brought up in the very last five minutes of the film, making Below Zero a literal version of what Penny calls the script in the film of the same name: A B.O.S.H., which means “a bunch of shit happens.”
With the exception of Michael Berryman, it’s sub-par acting all around, and an overly obnoxious Canadian accent from Kristin when she’s playing Penny (though, in her defence, it’s clear she’s having fun with it) that magically disappears later on, this film is just a complete mess. Most of the time you’ll wish you were just watching the story Jack is writing, then just want to give up about half way through when the thing is rewritten a couple times over, leading to the many different endings. Below Zero just seems like two short movies based on a similar concept spliced together and expanded by long establishing shots of the setting and atmosphere. Had there been some better direction, acting, and a script that didn’t seem like darts thrown at a plot board to shell out twist after twist for the sake of having multiple twists, this tried and true type of story could have been moderately enjoyable. Instead, you end up with an incoherent mess that tried to do way too much all at once.
|Overall Score: 3/10