Blu-Ray Review: BENEATH (2013)
(Warning!! This review contains spoilers!! You have been warned!!)
Back in the early 2000’s I bought a book called, ‘Mysterious America: The Revised Edition’ by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Chapter 10 is titled “Giant Catfish” and this is where I learned that there are supposed to be GIANT catfish in existence. I also learned they’re more than legend in parts of Asia and around the world, but they aren’t supposed to grow GIANT in North America. Just to put that in perspective in May of 2005 a world record was broken when a giant catfish weighing 646 pounds and measuring 9 feet in length was caught in the Mekong River in China.
The photo is impressive
The first movie I can recall to touch base on these legends is Frankenfish (originally titled Bayou); made in 2004 by special effects artist, Mark Dippe. I saw it when it was on the SyFy channel and almost skipped it due to that comical title. Yes, Bayou is generic and not much better but it doesn’t bring to mind some kind of comedy/horror. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Good story, relatable characters and the CGI fish looked like someone actually spent some money on making them look real, sans a few shots of them swimming under the water which looked like the usual SyFy hokey.
After watching it I quickly hit up Amazon and ordered it.
Still got it, too.
I just wish Sony would blue the damn thing now.
Then in 2009 the Discovery Channel debuted a show called, River Monsters, where world-renowned fish hunter, Jeremy Wade, ventureed the globe to find some of the biggest fish you’ve never seen. The first two seasons were the best. Wade was actually finding and catching enormous fish I never knew existed. Some were even big enough to conceivable kill a human being but the ones legend says can engulf a man whole were never seen only speculated about in a few episodes.
Now we come to the second movie ever made that delves into these giant freshwater killers and this one comes courtesy of director Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter, Wendigo, Fear Itself episode, “Skin And Bones”).
Here we have 6 kids who just graduated from high school and before they depart for places unknown, probably never to see each other again, they want to have one last get-together at a place called Black Lake.
I wonder if this is a nod to the 1976 Killer Squatch flick Creature From Black Lake? Until I listen to the commentary I won’t know for sure.
And just like in that movie this Black Lake has a legend connected to it. This one is known for having a giant man-eating fish in it. One of the characters, Johnny, (Daniel Zavotto), who appears to be Native American knows about the legend, but then again all the kids seem to, but it’s only Johnny that seems to actually believe it. Even going so far as to want to give Kitty (Bonnie Dennison) a fishtooth necklace as protection against it. All of these kids are friends to a degree and Johnny appears to have been and is still smitten with Kitty even though her boyfriend, Matt (Chris Conroy), is with her on this trip. Also tagging along is Matt’s younger brother, Simon (Jonny Orsini), and a chick named, Deb (Mackenzie Rosman), who seems to be best friends with Kitty. Then we have a film geek director wanna-be named, Zeke (Griffin Newman) who’s passion is movies and who’s heading off to film school in the fall. So passionate is he the kid comes equipped with a GoPro digital camera around his wrist to record as much of the trip as possible.
An old man abruptly makes an appearance. Mr. Parks (Mark Margolis) is his name and he knows Johnny. And he’s intensely curious as to why he’s hanging around these kids down here at this lake. It’s obvious he’s thinking something is going to go horribly wrong but Johnny assures them they’re just heading to the other side of the lake to camp out.
In a nutshell this movie has a lot in common with Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever (2002), except here the kids aren’t stuck in a cabin in the woods, but in a rowboat and instead of being eaten away by a flesh eating disease, they’re eaten away by a giant fish.
I was actually liking this movie for a while, and starting out the kids are pretty likable, as they’re meant to be, but as the movie progresses we slowly find out the dynamics of their friendships were fairly messed up before hand, making it fairly easy for their tenuous bonds to disintegrate in the face of adversity.
All would have been find had eldest brother, Matt, not decided about half way through their trip to the other side to take a dip in the lake. And the girls just have to follow suite. Johnny tries his damndest to get them back in the boat, but you know how kids are.
This is where it all goes bad.
The giant fish shows up and through either a series of happy accidents or sentient pre-planning by the actual fish itself, the kids manage to lose both oars, and have all their ideas for escape thwarted. Making matters worse the fish has bashed a crack in the bottom of the boat and soon they are all going to be in the water whether they like it or not.
This is where the fragile friendships breakdown and the kids come to the unthinkable conclusion that if they distract the fish with some kind of bait they’ll be able to shove their hands in the water and paddle themselves to shore.
What kind of live bait you may ask?
Voting takes place throughout the movie. Who’s the least crucial person needed to help get the boat to shore? The person who wins, I mean, loses, gets tossed into the water. From the moment this lame ass plan was hatched you can see how utterly useless it is. They’d never be able to paddle fast enough before the fish gets done eating.
Obviously the kids become less and less likable as their dark sides come to the surface, until at the end you’ve got brother against brother.
I enjoyed the creature feature aspect with the practical FX of the giant fish looking really damn good. There is a vague supernatural angle in the movie concerning the necklace tooth. Wearing it seems to make the fish uninterested in you. But I shall say no more.
Incidentally, Zeke deserved to get tossed in. You’ll find that kid is the most unsympathetic bunch when the shit hits the fan. And I do kind of blame Johnny for not telling everyone what might happen. But they all knew the legend and who the hell would actually believe it would show up and start killing them. So I guess I was conflicted as to how much of the real blame he should be saddled with. He was the most heroic of the bunch. Not a douchy bone in his body.
God rest his soul.
Never forget, people.
Shout! Factory brokered a deal with the Chiller Channel some time ago making Shout! the sole distributor of all films Chiller and they have released Beneath through their horror sub-label Scream Factory.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p high definition anamorphic 1.78:1—English 5.1 DTS-MA/English 2.0 DTS-MA—English subtitles only.
Both the video and the audio were superb.
As for extras, first up is a commentary with Director Larry Fessenden and Sound Designer Graham Reznick that’s pretty damn informative. Fessenden didn’t write this one. He was at Chiller Films pitching some ideas when they said, ‘well, we’ve got this one already to go.’ He read it and loved it. There was no indication this Black Lake was a nod to Creature From Black Lake. I was also surprised to learn CGI was indeed used in the movie, but in such a way you would never notice it. Case in point—all the “eye action” from the fish was CGI.
‘Behind Beneath: Making The Fish Movie’ (1:00:00) is a really nice in depth look at the making of the movie from FX, to cast rehearsals, to sound design, to red carpet premiere and everything in between which is behind the scenes on the set of how it was all put together and filmed.
The next major extras that will definitely add to your movie viewing experience are the webisodes, What The Zeke? (18:32) and What’s In Black Lake (11:42). In the beginning of the movie there’s brief mention of Zeke’s flick called, Zombies vs. Werewolves vs. Ninjas and then later on during his desperate and cutthroat breakdown in the boat in an effort to save his own ass he makes mention of video he secretly recorded, and afterwards Matt casually mentions the football game Zeke recorded. All this can now be viewed in What The Zeke?
It also shows that Matt was not a big fan of Zeke, which now makes me wonder why he was even invited. In fact Zeke and Johnny come off as the “geeks” while the others come off as the “popular kids,” again making me wonder why these two were even allowed to come along. Generally those two social types don’t mix.
In What’s In Black Lake Larry Fessenden takes the role of a weird obsessive who can’t get enough of the legends and mysterious disappearances that surround the lake. These webisodes are him talking to the camera. There’s also a moment where he tracks down Johnny as he’s walking home from either school or heading somewhere and tries to get the kid to come clean about the tooth he wears. You also get an epilogue of sorts to the movie where “Crazy Larry” hears on the news that 5 or 6 kids went missing and bodies were found. He heads down to Black Lake and videos the Do Not Cross Police tape all over the place.
Other extras are some Outtakes (14:39), these aren’t bloopers but more behind-the-scenes action and the Poster/Premiere (2:06), which is just a montage of the poster actually being pressed and video from the premiere set to the creepy music of the movie.
Finally there’s Fessenden On Jaws (17:07). In 1982 Larry and some other dude did a spoof of Siskel and Ebert. Here it’s called, “Brief Previews” and they’re reviewing the “remake” of Jaws, which is a stop motion segment of Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw on the boat at the end of the movie. We then can cut to present day where Larry and his bud show us the miniature of the boat he made that’s still in one piece and the attention to detail is astounding.
Finally there’s Beneath’s trailer.
The creature feature aspect worked me but the let’s-murder-each-other angle did not.