What lies under­ground is a potent source of fear: whether it’s a grave or an under­ground mine, the prox­im­i­ty to death that such a loca­tion brings and the fear/madness it can inspire make it a wor­thy loca­tion for a hor­ror tale. That said, the prac­ti­cal chal­lenges of shoot­ing under­ground assure that hor­ror fans only get to see such films every so often. The lat­est is Beneath, a min­ing-themed ter­ror tale that takes a vio­lent romp through the recent his­to­ry of under­ground hor­ror.

Beneath-K-dvdBeneath takes place on the last day of work as a min­er for George Marsh (Jeff Fahey), an aging fel­low who is being urged to give up the pro­fes­sion by his young col­lege grad­u­ate daugh­ter, Samantha (Kelly Noonan). When George’s co-work­ers tease her about being too soft for such work, she calls their bluff by offer­ing to go under­ground for her dad’s last day on the job.

She descends beneath the sur­face with a crew of work­ers that include poten­tial love inter­est Randy (Joey Kurn), super­vi­sor Mundy (Brent Briscoe) and hot-tem­pered Masek (Eric Etebari). Of course, every­thing goes wrong once the group is down in the mines. A mishap caus­es a cave-in, an old­er mine with a trag­ic back­sto­ry is unearthed and — worst of all — it seems there might be a malev­o­lent some­one down there with them who is out to pick them off.

Beneath has a lot going for it. The cast takes its work seri­ous­ly, the under­ground sets are pret­ty impres­sive for an indie hor­ror flick and direc­tor Ben Ketai gives the film the claus­tro­pho­bic style it needs. Unfortunately, the script by Patrick Doody and Chris Valenziano lets the enter­prise down on a few fronts. For starters, it makes Samantha a total scaredy-cat who pan­ics at the drop of a pick­axe and has too many jump-scare hal­lu­ci­na­tions. The sto­ry also unrav­els dur­ing the finale: just when it needs to pay off, it reverts to cheap scares and mud­dles its cli­max.

This is a shame because Beneath has a solid setup and a pro­fes­sion­al­ism that sug­gests it could have been a con­tender in the under­ground hor­ror world. Unfortunately, it is con­tent to go through a kind of “great­est hits” approach to its style of ter­ror — com­plete with nods to The Descent and My Bloody Valentine — and it lacks the fol­low-through need­ed to reshape its famil­iar hooks into a coher­ent, fresh vari­a­tion on the form.

DVD Notes: This title was recent­ly released as a Region 2 DVD by Arrow Films U.K. It has an anamor­phic trans­fer that does well by all those dark mine inte­ri­ors and a robust 5.1 stereo sound mix that has plen­ty of sur­round speak­er activ­i­ty. Extras are brief, lim­it­ed to a cou­ple of quick EPK video pieces that mix sound­bites from the cast and crew with film clips and behind-the-sce­nes footage. There is also a brief “doc­u­men­tary film clip” that ref­er­ences the old min­ing tragedy allud­ed to in the film.

Full Disclosure: This review was done using a check disc DVD-R pro­vid­ed by Arrow.