Beneath the DarknessOverview -
BENEATH THE DARKNESS is a teen thriller in the style of Disturbia, with high school kids pitted against a psychotic villain in a community where adults refuse to see one of their own is a serial killer. The villain (Dennis Quaid) is a well-respected mortician in a town where he was once a legendary high school football star. But among the kids he is legendary for a more sinister reason - rumors that his house is haunted. The truth is more evil and much more dangerous the town leader murdered his wife and her lover when he caught them having an affair, and now has secretly set up house with his wife's embalmed corpse. The local hero is a flesh-and-blood monster who buries his victims alive, a sociopath who befriends adults and police while openly flaunting his murderous intentions to the teens. He will kill anyone who threatens to expose him or his now-perfect marriage.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
What happened to the Dennis Quaid that we used to love, the one from 'Innerspace?' Where did he go? His career seems to be making a full circle back to the bad movies (like 'Jaws 3'). He used to be worlds better than his atrocious brother Randy, but the gap that separates the two is quickly shrinking. Watch 'Beneath the Darkness' and you will see exactly what I mean.
While writing my Weekend Movies post for The Bonus View one week, I noticed a small title opening that I'd never heard of – 'Beneath the Darkness' - so I did some research and found that Dennis Quaid was the biggest name in it. Seeing a high(er) profile actor in a tiny movies isn't uncommon, but when I watched the trailer my jaw was left agape. Why in the world would Dennis Quaid stoop to doing such a bad-looking movie? The saddest part about it is that as terrible as the trailer makes 'Beneath the Darkness' appear, it's even worse than it looks.
The opening scene of 'Beneath the Darkness' immediately reveals that Quaid's mortician character Ely is a murderer. Had the movie taken a turn like 'The Burbs' where everyone suspects the neighborhood creep of strange behavior, then there would be some tension – but 'Beneath the Darkness' completely ruins it from the get-go. And as if that isn't bad enough, once we see Killer Quaid in the act, his performance turns into something from a Rob Zombie movie. He starts taunting his helpless victim in a corny and zany comical manner with one-liners and catch phrases, repeatedly yelling out a high-pitch cowboy rendition of "woo-hoo" and plenty of terrible "ha-ha"s. Had the movie gone for an over-the-top cult vibe, then it would have been fitting - it still wouldn't have been good, but it would at least be consistent. Instead, everything else in the film is dreadfully dry and serious.
Although Quaid is given the long 'Mr. Brooks' opening scene, he is not the central character. The lead is played by a Justin Bieber look-alike named Tony Oller. His character Travis, along with his three best friends, is a mess. Travis is a nice and quiet kid, yet when he's at home, he mouths off to his mom and apparently is failing a bunch of classes at school – which makes no sense because he acts the opposite outside of home. There, he oozes bad attitude. Oddly enough, he and friends are an unlikely match too. The only female of the foursome is Abby (Aimee Teegarden), a cute cheerleader who appears to be popular, yet only hangs out with these three misfits. One of the guys in the group matches her stereotype more – star football player Danny (Devon Werkheiser). The last of the group is a prick that no non-bully gang would stand for, Brian (Stephen Lunsford). Together, these four unlikely friends begin to suspect that Ely is a creeper, so they spy on him. When Ely decides is might be a good idea to dance around in front of his house windows with his taxidermied wife, the kids see him and think it might be smart to break into Ely's house to get a closer look.
I remember doing plenty of stupid stuff in my teenage years, but I don't think that I and my friends were dumb enough to break and enter into someone's house that we knew was a killer – especially when he was home. These dummies climb in and immediately make a ton of ruckus in the pitch black house. Of course, they're not heard by Ely until after they make their way upstairs to his waxy corpse bride. It's then that Ely chases them out of the house. In the act he pushes Danny down the stairs and stomps on his head, crushing his skull. Considering the teenagers were in the wrong, it's Ely's word against the three intruders when the police arrive. After the kids are arrested, we see Ely chomp up some more scenery by speaking to his literal trophy wife in "baby talk."
After the foursome-turned-threesome is released by the police, they set off to prove that Ely murdered Danny. The set-up that I've explained so far seems like it should only consume the opening of the film, but in reality it takes so long that it only leaves room for the lame-o climax. 'Beneath the Darkness' takes too much time to do too little and plays out more like a dumb and wasted PG-13 horror movie than the R-rated suspense thriller isn't pretending to be. The ridiculously unoriginal and contrived story feels so cheesy that it must be made for teens, but the R rating says otherwise.
Perhaps the most insulting aspect of the film is how dumb it expects the audience to be. For example, before the whole debacle begins, Travis mows lawns around town for money. One of his employers is Ely. One scene shows Travis supposedly finishing a job at Ely's house. Ely comes out and chastises Travis for not mowing it close enough to the ground, but the yard that surrounds them is full of short patches of grass and dirt that's covered in massive piles of leaves. Are we really supposed to believe that, one, the grass is long, two, leaves remain on the ground after mowing it and, three, that he moved the ginormous leaf piles around for mowing? Later, when the kids break into his house, they're dressed in huge puffy jackets and complain about the cold weather. But when they try to find a point of entry, they locate an open window. Who keeps windows open when it's that cold outside? And as if this seen-it-before story wasn't bad enough, there's an unexplained ghost sub-plot that surfaces during a few scenes and makes no connection whatsoever with the story at hand. If you're going to include paranormal activity in your movie, please explain it and use it more than just two tiny instances that don't fit in with big picture. I can continue with a long list of hopeless flaws, but I'll stop there.
'Beneath the Darkness' is so clichéd and horrendous that it feels like Dennis Quaid is going to jump out at any moment and yell, "I'm gonna get you, you darn kids!" When he's not hamming it up on screen, it's slow, boring and melodramatic like a lesser CW series. Had they not included a few F-bombs, it would have made a perfectly awful PG-13 scary movie for kids who have no idea what good entertainment is. But the way that it is now, it's just a terrible movie fit for no one. The studio is sure to try to recoup some profit by editing it and playing in on a teen-aimed television network (which will probably happen very soon) and perhaps then it will find an audience who doesn't know any better.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Beneath the Darkness' – which is an extremely generic title that has nothing to do with the movie itself – has been placed on a Region A BD-25 in a single disc vortex keepcase. The best part about the whole Blu-ray release is that nothing but an FBI warning and an Image vanity reel run before the main menu. The worst thing about the disc release is the movie itself.
'Beneath the Darkness' has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The quality is exactly what you'd expect from a movie of this low calibre – bad.
Once you click the "play" button and the video transitions from the menu to movie, as the opening credits begin, you'll notice how bad the black levels are. Blacks aren't even close to resembling black. They are gray through and through. Only making the transfer worse, shadow delineation is horrible. No detail whatsoever lies within the shadows – not even shapes and details make the cut, only outlines of objects remain.
The picture quality lacks any resemblance whatsoever to fine details. Facial stubble looks like smudging. Five-o'clock shadows look just like that – shadows. Not a single pore or follicle is visible. Hairs blend together, no single strand standing out. Aliasing is absent, but only because nothing is detailed enough to warrant this flaw. The image is simply too soft.
A good chunk of the movie takes place in dark nighttime settings, so colors aren't too common. The few daytime instances that show off color – like the cheerleaders in red outfits practicing their routines – feature some solid strong coloring.
Edge enhancement isn't used, but if it was we might have some defined lines in this movie. DNR also isn't used and there aren't any traces of bands or artifacts. The print is perfectly clean – other than a nasty scratch that's visible in the very final horrendous take of the movie.
'Beneath the Darkness' features one completely wasted audio track – English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.
No effort whatsoever appears tohave been put into mixing the audio. The vocal track is much too quiet. Even manually raising the volume of the center channel won't help. In fact, you might as well turn on the subtitles because you will miss some lines of dialog.
The opening scene of the movie features cricket chirps that emit from all around the room, but that's the only instance of the surround and rear channels being engaged. They are plenty of opportunities to make use of them, they're simply ignored. One scene takes place on a porch during a wind storm, but no effects emit from the surround speakers. Everything comes from the front. But it's not only the mixing of the audio that's full of missed opportunities – there's also a void of effects. One scene shows a kid breaking pane of glass on a door. As he unlocks the door, opens it and walks in, we don't even hear the sound of his shoes walking on the shards. There are countless instances where you're expecting certain sounds, but they're never heard.
The audio track is mostly bassless, but there is one use of LFE during a ghostly flashback. Talk about a waste of a lossless track.
- Behind the Scenes (720p, 3 min.) - In this, the briefest making-of featurette I've ever seen, learn how well the filmmakers thought they made the mortician make-up look. Be prepared for three minutes of B-roll footage and cell phone footage from the set, mostly taking place at the football and cheerleading shoot. Just as much of a waste of time as the movie itself, at least this feature only lasts three minutes.
- Trailer (HD, 2 min.) - This trailer makes the movie look bad, but not as bad as it really is.
Between the movie, the audio and video, and the special features, this is definitely one Blu-ray to avoid at all costs. The story is tension-less. The characters are unrealistic and inconsistent. The only thing more fickle than their relationships are their actions and reactions. The script is awful, as are the performances – especially that of Dennis Quaid's caricature of a character. The video quality is repulsive and the audio mix is full of missed opportunities and inaudible dialog. 'Beneath the Darkness' is painful to watch. It leaves you feeling embarrassed for anyone and everyone involved. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to release this trainwreck should be forced to watch it on a repeated loop for punishment. 'Beneath the Darkness' is one Blu-ray that should have remained in darkness.
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