Friday, February 28, 2014

BENEATH (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Big Teeth, Not So Big Bite

For the most part I've enjoyed all of Scream Factory's releases thus far. There was the strange case of Ninja III that I still picked up even though it didn't fit within my small compartmentalized ideology as to what should be Scream Factory and what should be Shout Factory. Dead Souls also didn't quite get me. I still gave it a shot, and I realized that there would be an audience out there that would appreciate more than I. While I offer up some examples of when Scream Factory puts out movies that might not appeal to me, I have to say that Beneath releasing this March on Blu-ray is not my favorite release. That does not mean I dislike it. I have seen plenty of criticism about the movie itself, not necessarily this Blu-ray. Scream Factory has a partnership with Chiller, a horror cable TV channel, and occasionally Scream puts out Blu-rays for them. That's where our tale begins.

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

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. Trapped in a leaking boat with no oars, the teens face the ultimate test of friendship and sacrifice during a terror-stricken fight for survival when they find something is living beneath the surface.

Remember Stephen King's The Raft? Remember how there was a group of teens with party plans trapped in the middle of lake without hope of escape as they are picked off one my one by a giant, living-sludge? Well Beneath watches just like that. Substitute boat for raft. Add a few extra teens. Take out the 80's music, hair styles and sense of fun. Add in some serious melodrama and girl problems with hints of Breakfast Club stereotype hierarchy and analysis. Remove strange looking, well conceived oil slick. Add poorly conceived, large tooth fish. Beneath is a full length feature film, the raft is a story that takes up about one third of Creepshow 2. That means that either the Beneath develops its characters well or they've simply spread the release out.

Ultimately the story is about human evils and not necessarily nature's inability to curb a lake monster, but with strange relationships and stereotype crashing and bending, the move becomes difficult to take seriously. Maybe that's because of some of the actors. Maybe it's due to the fact that you have a giant fish with giant teeth and a frickin' oar sticking out of it he whole time. It's comedic, but maybe it shouldn't be. So I enjoyed it for the first 60 minutes or so while the movie developed and went through cycles of humor and serious drama with some blood and gore to keep my attention, but not enough skin to keep my eyes wide open. Then it sort of drops off and decides to be out and out malicious. Beneath forgets the Breakfast Club moral of sticking together to conquer the real bad and goes straight for the deepest darkest nature that human's can embody. 

Not a feel good movie. 

The release looks very good, but it also must be noted that this a modern film and not one of Scream Factory's expert transfer/restorations. There are some really great shots in the film that help the HD really pop. It's almost distracting how good those landscapes look.  Extras include an audio commentary by Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick. A making of feature called A Look Behind Beneath: Making the "Fish Movie". Theaterical Trailer. Fessenden on Jaws. The featurete What's on Black Lake and From the Web: What the Zeke? 

Note: 1080p HD Widescreen 1.78:1. DTS HD Master Audio.

I'll recommend Beneath to fans of environmental/nature based horror that understand that it isn't always the monster you should be afraid of. It's above the SyFy CGI fests, but not necessarily living up to a full feature release and certainly doesn't compare to some of the cult classic features of the late 70's involving large, seemingly evil animals (water bound or not). I urge you to watch it, and form an opinion. Despite everything I had heard about this release, it was still moderately entertaining for a good portion of the film. Rest assured that I believe Chiller TV can put out good features. I enjoyed Chilling Senses quite a bit. 

-Doc Terror

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