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I hadn't seen this before coming across it browsing for a snuggle-up-'scary'-movie in store the other week; despite it being very recent, I don't recall seeing advertising for it or it being released in the cinema, so perhaps it wasn't. The reviews seemed to be okay but even though I thought it was watchable enough, it did lack creepiness I was hoping it would have thanks to some cheesiness in the script and a somewhat lacklustre premise.
This was directed by Martin Guigui who has worked on a few things but nothing I recognise. We're introduced to Ely, a guy who works all day with dead people prepping them for funerals. Sounds like a depressing life to lead, and yet he appears to be a fairly upstanding member of the community, respected for his solitude at his home after his wife passed away. Quite quickly we see another side to the seemingly 'normal' looking guy as marches a guy to his death, burying him in a grave (casket included). Not such a nice guy after all then perhaps.
Intro the high school kids. Out for a laugh and liking the elements of weird and quirky, they start talking about weird Ely, the guy in the big house where one of the kids does some garden work for him. The talk becomes action when they stake out his house and think they can see someone else in there with him, strangely jumping to the conclusion that maybe it's a ghost. The obvious thing to do at this point is, of course, to break in. Things go from bad to worse and without giving more than the synopsis away, they become unwilling witnesses to a murder. But will anyone believe them, the kids who break in to a house, seemingly to take the mick out of a lonely bereaved man who works hard for his living? Ely is almost a hero, especially having chased away rumours and kids that break in to his house, dealing with the dead in the area and being an otherwise 'good' man. But all is not as it seems, and now the kids know more than they ever should have, the question is whether they can put a stop to it all before it's too late, and whether Ely will let them escape with this new knowledge.
I would say the film falls in to the horror/thriller genre, but the atmosphere and script doesn't always necessarily reflect this. The fact that the majority of key characters, bar Ely, are kids, gives this more of a teen horror feel to it, so whilst there is some sense of atmosphere and suspense, it wasn't as intense as it could have been. The premise was fairly so-so, especially as we already know what's what early on; we're merely watching to see how things turn out for these kids, and there is some tension there that makes you want to keep watching, but again, I wasn't entirely bothered one way of the other. Part of this was because even though I found the characters reasonably likeable, the high school kids weren't given that much depth and weren't made to be as compelling as they could have been, so the sense of empathy and intrigue lacked a little.
The cast includes Dennis Quaid (Ely), Tony Oller (Travis), Stephen Lunsford (Brian), Devon Werkheiser (Danny) and Aimee Teegarden (Abby) amongst others. There was also a smaller part played by Brett Cullen as one of the officers, making the total of 2 'famous' actors I recognised along with Quaid. The teens were okay in their roles but nothing special, not really coming across as having a great deal of depth or invoking too much of a response from me one way or the other. I enjoyed watching Quaid, who made it watchable for me, even though I wouldn't say it was an award-winning performance. At times he was creepy, but again, there was a sense of this being almost cheesy and comical, especially at the very end, which but a twist on the genre. If nothing else, it made it interesting because I was expecting a simple run-of-the-mill high-school teen horror, so the almost comical quirks made it more memorable.
Whilst I thought it was entertaining and easy enough to watch, there were moments of utter cheddar cheese that I couldn't ignore, especially when it came to Abby and her potential love interest. The stereotypical nature and clichéd scripting made it cringe worthy, which was a shame because it seemed to distract from the atmosphere and genre of the film. In fact, other aspects, such as the way in which the murderer was so obvious and the killing so routine yet melodramatic, made the film tilt towards a comedy horror.
Beneath The Darkness isn't one that will really scare, nor does it offer anything particularly new, but it was easy enough to watch.It was too cheesy in parts to create a creepy enough atmosphere, but if you want something easy going for a film night in then you may enjoy Quaid and the ability to watch this without much effort or thought.
DVD released 2012, rated Certificate 18, running time 96 minutes.
Selling on Amazon for £7.99.
[Also reviewed by me, gothic_moon, on Ciao]