Synopsis: When a group of young friends commemorating their high school graduation take a trip to the remote Black Lake, their celebration turns into a nightmare with the sudden appearance of a bloodthirsty, underwater predator. Stuck in a leaking boat with no oars, the teens face the ultimate tests of friendship and sacrifice during a terror-stricken fight for survival.
Release Date: July 15, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
When the SyFy Network’s sister horror channel, Chiller, approached director Larry Fessenden (Wendigo) with the script for Beneath, he could not say yes fast enough. Beneath is the story of six teens who celebrate their recent high school graduation by driving to a lake with the intent of partying on the other side. They hop in a boat and start to cross, but halfway there they are attacked by a giant monstrous fish with enormous dagger-like teeth. The kids try to fight off the beast but, in the process, they end up losing both of their oars. Adrift in the lake with a carnivorous fish hunting them, the group decides that the best thing to do would be to sacrifice one of them for the good of the rest, tossing them overboard and paddling like mad towards the shore while the beast devours the unlucky one. The question is, will it work? And, if it does, how many times will they have to throw someone to the fish in order for the rest of the group to get away?
Beneath is a movie that is so silly it’s awesome. The screenplay was written by the team of Tony Daniel and Brian D. Smith, and all that needs to be said about them is that their last film was called Flu Bird Horror. Beneath is an obvious low-rent love song to the old Roger Corman Creature Features, but it also recalls more modern films; a comparison to Jaws is inevitable, and it is also very reminiscent of the “The Raft” segment in Creepshow 2. The whole thing is very comic-book like: a perfect movie for the Chiller Network. In many ways, it feels more like a television movie than a bona-fide theatrical release. There is very little gore, and even less nudity. The cast is virtually unknown; the only exceptions come in small roles by Mackenzie Rosman (who played little Ruthie Camden on “7th Heaven”), who is the first to die and Mark Margolis (who is better known as the mute, wheelchair-bound Tio Salamanca on “Breaking Bad”), who never even sets foot on the boat. The narrative even follows more of an eight-act, television structure, which works well with the stranded kids choosing who to throw overboard next. With Chiller likely to keep Beneath alive in reruns for a long time, the film is a low-budget, high-mileage dream.
Although Beneath is a simple monster movie at its core, there is much more that is revealed as the layers are peeled away. The film is an interesting psychological study of mob mentality; who is the next to be thrown off, and how will it be decided? Right from the start, the kids have conflicts with one another and simply don’t seem to like each other. Once the chips are down and their lives are at risk, they stop being polite and start getting real. People are betrayed, secrets are shared, brothers become rivals, and friends become enemies. The teens are so smarmy and underhanded that the audience can’t help but root for the fish. That’s one of the best ingredients for a winning monster movie, and Beneath has it in spades.
Unlike the SyFy Network films that seem to permeate the modern monster movie genre, Beneath shies away from computed generated visuals and uses all practical effects. The result is an amazingly retro-creature-feature vibe that is a breath of fresh air in the current climate of digital monsters. Created by Justin Raleigh and his Fractured FX team (the guys behind Dark Skies), the fish is a classic combination of puppetry and animatronics in the vein of Bruce the shark from Jaws. The rubber fish is used like a badge of honor, and it is worn proudly. Larry Fessenden chooses to show the monster early and often, despite the dramatic limitations that would seem to come with such a technique, it works. Beneath is an ode to classic sci-fi monster movies, one in which the audience can plainly see the zipper on the monster’s back…and they love it that way.
In Beneath, the monster fish is not the scariest villain. The kids on the boat and their mob mentality are far more frightening. The group of teens is so unlikeable that the fish actually becomes the hero and, in the tradition of the best monster movies, the audience roots for the beast. The fish is a slow moving, unstoppable force that seems to be more brawn than brains. It seems like escape shouldn’t be that hard, yet it is. The fish is relentless, but at least it swims right up and eats its victims with its razor sharp, dagger-like teeth; the “friends” on the boat are so cutthroat and ruthless, desperate to save their own skins, that they will say and do anything to screw each other over and survive. And that is why they are the scary monsters in Beneath, and that is why their deaths are so rewarding and satisfying for the audience.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Larry Fessenden
- Screenwriter(s): Tony DanielBrian D. Smith
- Cast: Dabiel Zovatto (Johnny)Bonnie Dennison (Kitty) Chris Conroy (Matt)Jonny Orsini (Simon)Griffin Newman (Zeke)Mackenzie Rosman (Deb)Mark Margolis (Mr. Parks)
- Cinematographer: Gordon Arkenberg
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Will Bates
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA