Digi-Schlock: BENEATH (Scream Factory Blu-Ray)

Scream Factory has done well by the Chiller Network films they have released, giving them all nice DVD or blu-ray releases with extras.  Beneath is perhaps the best film to emerge from this deal and Scream Factory has appropriately given it an excellent disc release.

The transfer looks fantastic: Gordon Arkenberg’s digital cinematography shines here, with a rich, earthy color scheme and an array of vivid details that pop off the screen.  The 5.1 lossless stereo soundtrack that accompanies this transfer is similarly impressive, offering a mixture of dialogue, music and sound design that is immersive without being too showy in its surround effects.

Beneath-bluDirector Larry Fessenden produced most the special features for this set and offers over three hours’ worth of material for the viewer.  It all begins with a commentary track featuring Fessenden and sound designer/2nd unit director Graham Reznick.  It’s a detailed exploration of the production, both in creative and technical terms.  Fessenden talks about how the script was revised for production, offers a nice appreciation of his actors’ different styles around the track’s midpoint and speaks philosophically of how the horror genre is all about confronting death.

Reznick provides able support, acting as a cheerleader on the shots and scenes he loves and supplying some interesting commentary on sound design techniques and how he got particular 2nd unit shots.  Both Reznick and Fessenden show a nice appreciation for their collaborators, praising the work of the different technicians and pointing out where different cast members improvised a bit of business.  It’s a fine listen for anyone interested in independent filmmaking.

There are an additional two hours’ worth of video features, most of them directly involving Fessenden in some capacity.  The biggest is an hour-long piece entitled “Behind Beneath.”  It’s not the EPK-style segment you might expect.  Instead, it’s a behind-the-scenes travelogue filmed by Reznick that covers the film from pre-production through post-production.  You’ll get glimpses at how the monster was built, audition footage, a peek at the table read, plenty of production footage and even a few snippets of the ADR and musical score tracking sessions.

Next up is fifteen minutes of outtakes.  These are not bloopers or deleted scenes.  Instead, it seems designed to show how hard it was to orchestrate the frequent practical effects into the filming by showing how far they had to go achieve their effects.  A 2-minute segment entitled “Poster/Premiere” follows.  It’s a sort of visual tone poem that intercuts the printing of the film’s poster with footage of the film’s premiere.

TwoBeneath-05 inclusions consist of viral video promotion done for the film.  The first is “What The Zeke?” and it’s a  series of short video pieces that illustrate Zeke’s adventures prior to the film, conducting his own news show and trying to make a horror film entitled Zombies Vs. Werewolves Vs. Ninjas.  The funniest bits involve him sneaking into the girl’s locker room and harassing Mike at his job while trying to cast him in his project. “What’s In Black Lake” is a faux-video blog in which Fessenden plays a weirdo conspiracy theorist obsessed with the monster depicted in the film.  The director’s loopy performance makes this fun as he lays out a Blair Witch-style lore for Black Lake.

The final inclusion, and the most unusual of the bunch, is “Fessenden On Jaws.”  It depicts him showing off a large-scale model of the Orca from Jaws, which he created for an unfinished childhood stop-motion remake of that film.  He proudly shows off all its fine details and how they were created.  He even throws in a clip of the film and does his impressions of some favorite lines from Jaws.

In short, Scream Factory’s disc of Beneath gives the viewer a great transfer and an array of bonus materials that are as left-of-center as the film itself.  It’s worth the purchase price if you’re into modern indie horror.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Beneath, click here.

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