Beneath Review

Posted: June 28, 2014 in Horror, Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , ,

Beneath-movie-imageLet’s begin with a bit of clarification. We’re talking about the film Beneath, not Beneath (2013 – teens on a rowboat avoiding man-eating fish) or Beneath (2007 – car accident victim in a scary house) or Beneath The Dark (2010 – young couple checks in for motel weirdness) or Beneath The Darkness (2011 – Dennis Quaid as a creepy small-town mortician) or even What Lies Beneath (2000 – Michelle Pfeiffer losing her mind thanks to Harrison Ford).

Our Beneath is about a group of people trapped underground, but it’s not The Descent or The Cave or The Descent 2 or The Cavern or Underground or In Darkness We Fall.

And so we establish that the film in question is not the most original in either its title or its subject matter. Beneath is not half bad, but, unfortunately, it is not good enough to make a name for itself.

The premise is straightforward: a group of coal miners are trapped underground after a cave-in. The rescue team won’t reach them for 72 hours. They should be able to survive if they keep their wits about them, but, damn it, it’s a better movie if they all go witless. Two twists here, both straight out of the subterranean horror playbook. The first is the presence of the accidental tourist, the one who would not normally be there. In this case, it’s environmental lawyer Samantha Marsh (Kelly Noonan), known as Sam to her Dad (Jeff Fahey) and her ex-boyfriend Randy (Joey Kern), both of whom are miners. It’s Father George’s last day in the mine and Daughter Sam has been goaded into going down the shaft by his co-workers (that’s as close as it gets to sex in the movie).

The second twist is when bad things start to happen – you know, the usual stuff: severed limbs, impalements, even a nose bleed. The unanswered question is whether it’s a natural occurence (someone or everyone going nuts), a supernatural occurrence (what was that you were saying about the 19 miners that were buried alive down here in the 20’s?), or a very vivid series of hallucinations attributable to the bad air they’re breathing and the absence of a vegan option on the menu.

The ensemble cast is strong. Fahey, a standout character actor (remember him as pilot Frank Lapidus on Lost – “We’re not going to Guam, are we?”), is predictably good as George. Kern and the other actors portraying the miners, particularly Eric Etebari (Masek) and Brent Briscoe (Mundy), are also rock solid. Noonan as the local girl made good is fine, mighty fine, in fact, too fine. Sissy Spacek looked like a coal miner’s daughter. Kelly Noonan looks like a coal miner’s pin-up. You watch her and watch her and watch her and all you can think is “Why isn’t she one of those claustrophobics who take off all their clothes to relieve the symptoms?” To be fair, her performance is sound, if you can get beyond her looks.

Director Ben Ketai does nice work here as does cinematographer Timothy A. Burton. The make-up crew – Bryan Blair, Mike Measimer, Gary Pawlowski, Mike J. Regan, Jennifer Saeta, and Gary J. Tunnicliffe – deserve a special shout-out as well, particularly for the last shot in the film.

So with good acting, good directing, and good technical work, what’s the problem? The first 20 minutes of Beneath introduce the characters and the situation. The next ten minutes show the cave-in and the immediate consequences. That leaves one hour for the thrills and chills, and the writers just could not find the fear gear to shift the film into a high-speed, low-drag scenario with an escalating sense of tension and horror. The failure to identify the threat, a decision that works well in the initial stages, gradually weakens the overall sense of foreboding.

Two and a half stars.


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