When a group of young friends commemorating their high school graduation take a trip to the remote Black Lake, their celebration turns into a nightmare with the sudden appearance of a bloodthirsty, underwater predator. Stuck in a leaking boat with no oars, the teens face the ultimate tests of friendship and sacrifice during a terror-stricken fight for survival.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Writer/Director/Actor Larry Fessenden hasn't exactly made any horror films in his career that you would remember the next day. He directed the direct-to-video sequel of 'Cabin Fever 2' and a slow-moving horror film called 'Wendigo' a few years ago. His latest attempt at scaring us involves an underwater creature preying on idiotic teens. Things play out very slowly with a ridiculous and laughable script.
When Steven Spielberg scared everyone with 'Jaws', he had an air-tight script, wonderful characters, and a ferocious and terrifying giant shark. But with Fessenden's 'Beneath', these teens are dealing with a mutant catfish in a small lake, rather than a giant ocean. You'd think the movie would be over in a matter of minutes as these teenagers could manage to get their small boat from the middle of the lake to land, but where would the fun and gore come in, right? Instead we must endure a slow-moving 90 minute killer catfish movie that doesn't pick up any speed until after the first 45 minutes.
If this was movie was approached with a "so bad it's good" feel, or even just made with a little more flow, than this little horror flick wouldn't be so beneath (I'm sorry) the rest. It's obvious that Fessenden paid homage to 'Jaws', as the opening scene in 'Beneath' is very similar with a shot of a woman swimming from under water as if something is hunting her. But instead of filling his film with great characters you care about on the beautiful open ocean, he has a group of very unlikable teenagers celebrating their graduation by taking a small boat with paddles out on the lake for some memories.
The usual cliches are all gathered into the boat, including the pretty girl, the jock, and a nerd. But what we soon find out is that this isn't just a movie about a killer catfish, who we desperately want to see rip these idiotic teenagers to shreds after the first two minutes of meeting them, but rather this tells the old yarn of a high school love triangle that all comes out over the course of this ridiculous movie. The unfortunate thing here is that it takes way too long for anything remotely interesting to happen.
You'll go over half of the movie without anybody getting chewed up and spit back out, and for no good reason other than to make this a feature length picture. I can compare this to Eli Roth's 'Hostel' films, which are more or less the same thing. In 'Hostel', you have 70% of the movie of young adults partying and being a menace to society, who in the last 15 or so minutes get their due with some very graphic violence and gore. Well since Fessenden has worked closely with Roth before, he took his cues here with 'Beneath' and more or less followed the same pattern.
Will you get your gore? Yes. Do a lot of people die horrible deaths? Yes. But should we have to wait through fifty minutes of slop to get to the "good stuff"? The answer is no we shouldn't. especially when the dialogue, characters, and plot are all so ridiculous, that these characters couldn't figure out a way to get to land on the small lake they were on. Good grief.
'Beneath' comes with a surprisingly good 1080p HD transfer, despite the film itself, and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Fessenden shot this film digitally mostly on actual water, and it looks solid. For being such a gloomy subject matter where kids get eaten up by a killer fish, the image is actually quite bright and lively.
The colors seem to pop off screen and might seem to bright for a film like this. The detail is also quite sharp and vivid with well-defined closeups of the actor's ridiculous faces. The schlocky rubbery fins of the fish really show up and will make you laugh out loud. The gore and blood stand out as well with some terrific reds and fine detail in each wound. The wider shots of the lake give some good depth to the picture, even if the story didn't.
This release comes with a solid lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. For a low budget horror film, the sound does a pretty good job of trying to keep the suspense alive. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, and is free of any pops, cracks, and hissing. There are some really good sound effects with the killer catfish and all of its underwater surroundings throughout.
The ambient noises of the bugs, fish, and natural nature noises sound robust through the surrounds. The LFE is great with a fairly wide dynamic range. While this audio mix doesn't change the game and won't necessarily rumble your walls, it gets the job done nicely. This is solid audio presentation.
Audio Commentary with Director Larry Fessenden and Sound Designer Graham Reznick - This is a strange pair for a commentary. Fessenden discusses some of the origins, shots, and techniques that were used to get some oft he shots during the film. And Reznick more or less talks about some of the fun stories that went on during the shoot and while editing the film. There are frequent pauses throughout.
A Look Behind 'Beneath': Making the "Fish Movie" (HD, 60 mins.) - Here is a great look at the making of the film with cast and crew interview, on set footage, and some extensive looks at how some of the shots were done.
What's In Black Lake? (HD, 12 mins.) - This is a fun "found footage" extra that shows us what dangers might lurk in the lake where the movie takes place.
What the Zeke? (HD, 19 mins.) - This extra focuses on the 'nerd' character of the film, who is an avid film buff. You might laugh here.
Poster/Premiere (HD, 3 mins.) - What a treat. This small extra shows the actual printing of the movie poster with some footage of the premiere.
Outtakes (HD, 15 mins.) - Here is quite the gag reel full off flubs, missed lines and cues, and other laughter.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Beneath' isn't a good movie by any means. There are tons of other horror films about killer fish out there that are far better. The killer catfish here is shown often, therefore it doesn't really pack a powerful punch when we see it kill it's idiotic prey. This movie is a perfect candidate for the guys of Rifftrax. Despite the actual film itself, the video and audio presentations are quite good and there are some excellent extras. If you're a fan of really bad horror movies, then pick this up, for it has a lot of fun special features, but other than that, feel free to skip this one.
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