Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Ben Ketai
Written by: Patrick Doody & Chris Valenziano
Starring: Jeff Fahey, Kelly Noonan, Brent Briscoe & Joey Kern
BENEATH claims to be inspired by a true story. The stories (plural) in this case would be the couple of incidents where a mine has collapsed on a group of miners in the past few years. The plot of this film is so loosely based on those incidents that it’s likely the script was already lying on a shelf somewhere long before those events even occurred. Somebody saw a news story and decided to do production under the thought of “It’s time to bank in on a current event.” BENEATH is far from anything new. It’s the kind of film you’ve seen a bunch of times before in different settings with various qualities. While it’s not an all-out failure, but this isn’t necessarily one you want to seek out. If anything, this is more like the title you pass by while browsing Netflix and think to yourself “Well, I might as well…” That’s not exactly the ringing endorsement that one would hope for in a flick with an overall good premise.
The basic summary is that a mine caves in on a group of people. Stuck below the Earth with limited oxygen, the group miners to turn on each other after finding that a killer might be on the loose or the mine may be haunted. The possibility remains that all of these things could just be morbid hallucinations as they are breathing in polluted air. Needless to say that bad things happen. I don’t list specific names because the characters aren’t particularly memorable to begin with. They’re almost like walking and talking clichés. There’s the dad who’s about to retire, his daughter who wants to spend time with him, the guy who might have a crush on the daughter, and the rest are pretty much bearded rednecks who don’t take too kindly to a woman being in this mine with them.
This all being said, I didn’t absolutely hate the characters for the running time. The movie doesn’t necessarily do anything all out terrible, but it’s just so tired and familiar that it feels dusty. This is one of those films that opens up with its ending, so we see enough to know how many people will survive this ordeal. We just don’t know who will live or how the rest of the group die. It’s not too hard to take a wild shot in the dark though. I predicted the end of this movie before the opening credits of the film finished rolling. Again, it’s not awful, but it’s just too been-there done-that.
The film is actually very well shot and the sets appear like the film crew went down into a real mine. There’s an appropriate suffocating atmosphere. A lot of this momentum is killed by the fact that the camera can’t seem to sit still for five seconds. Even when the scene is on a group of characters talking, the cameraman is having a minor epileptic fit. There was absolutely no reason for the camera to be shaking as much as it was when a guy is just standing on a stage giving a farewell speech. Jeff Fahey is only decent actor here and isn’t given a lot to work with. A couple of creepy shots come into play as well that looked pretty good, but only last for a few seconds. When the movie devolves into characters splitting up, dying, and flashlights cutting out, the finale becomes incomprehensible and mercifully short.
There was real potential to turn BENEATH into an affective tale of human horror, sort of in the similar vein of 2012’s THE DIVIDE. It’s always intense and uncomfortable to watch people turn on each other in intense scenarios. Those scenes are short-lived in BENEATH and then silly slasher and ghost elements are introduced. The possible supernatural/slasher aspect detract what might have been a pretty cool flick, among bland characters and shaky camera work. Instead, BENEATH winds up with the appropriate description of a B-movie you’ll come across Netflix late at night say to yourself “I might as well…” It’s not awful, but it does squander a good premise with the overused clichés that sink many horror films.