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 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.