Available on DVD from Mon 20 Apr 2015
Ben Ketai / USA / 2013 / 86 mins
When a movie – running at 86 minutes long – starts to feel like a drag, then you know you’ve got problems. And yet pacing issues only begin to scrape the surface (pun intended) of what’s wrong with Beneath.
A group of coal miners become trapped underground following a collapse and, as they wait to be rescued, the air growing ever more toxic, strange goings-on begin to violently pit co-worker against co-worker. Think you’ve seen this movie before? That’s because you have: stealing shots from horror classic The Shining, or ideas from the impressively claustrophobic The Descent, and even tropes from Hollywood cop thrillers (‘last day on the job’ vs. ‘new kid in town’), there’s very little in the way of originality here. But that could all be bypassed if this clichéd, B-movie trash amounted to something terrifying. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
What’s most unsatisfying is that – on occasion – the film throws up an interesting development, only to drag us back to the depths of the barrel with cheap jump scares and adorably obvious zombie prosthetics. Both the rescue chambers seen in the film – a ‘luxury condo’ and an inflatable – sit colourfully out of place in the darkened mines, and both help elevate the alien nature that our hero Sam (Kelly Noonan) finds herself in, like spaceships crashed on a foreign planet. However, time spent in such environments is limited and, once we get used to the surrounding mines, things never really feel too enclosed or ruthless.
Beneath isn’t exactly all-round, offensively terrible, but it is a perfect definition of mediocrity. The first piece of dialogue heard in the film lets us know how things will end, so all tension is lost before things even get going, and the cast are given very little to do except run, scream and breathe heavily. It’s monotonous, predictable and, worst of all, simply not scary. Oh and “inspired by real events”. If anything, that says it all.