Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

If you were to watch this film, ‘Beneath’, with your eyes closed and only listen to the score, with all of the rumbling strings, horns and the sudden orchestral hits you would swear that there was some seriously scary stuff going on, but you would be somewhat mistaken. As a matter of fact while watching the film and hearing the various instrumental cues but actually seeing nothing too frightening, I did just that and closed my eyes to see if the sudden orchestral hit actually showed us something. No, just more of Nora Zehetner walking through this corridor or that corridor looking worried and concerned.

Christy (Zehetner) is one seriously psychologically screwed up pre-med student, drawing pictures of visions of dead people (Yes, she sees dead people), prone to sleep-walking hissy fits and saddled with disturbing images constantly flowing through her head is making it difficult for the twenty-year-old to lead a normal life. This all stems from six years ago when Christy and her sister Vanessa (Carly Pope) were visiting their parents grave. As they were leaving, the young Christy begged her older sister to let her drive. Vanessa was reluctant at first but then relented. While driving down the twisty road in the convertible, Vanessa thinks it would be funny to stand up in her chair and do a ‘Titanic’ completely freaking out the fourteen-year-old. Okay, so she didn’t want to let her drive in the first place, and when she does she thinks it’s a good idea to ‘freak out’ a fourteen year girl who is driving down a twisty road and who has never been behind the wheel of a car before. Yeah, that makes total sense. Anyway, there’s something in the road, the kid, surprise, freaks out and crashes the car. Christy is thrown clear but Vanessa burns when car catches fire. Vanessa does manage survive, but will die from her wounds a few months later leaving behind her husband Joseph (Don S. Davis) and their young daughter.

An adult Christy has returned to town after the death of the kindly old caretaker, which she saw happen in a dream, to attend his funeral. But now the images are stronger than ever leading Christy to believe that her brother in law, for whatever reason, buried her burnt sister alive. Fortifying this belief is her young niece Amy (Jessica Amlee) seeing ‘The Dark One’ and swearing that the mounting bodies are being caused by this ‘Dark’ creature. Christy knows that somehow these deaths are related to her brother-in-laws perceived deception, but yet Christy doesn’t include the ‘by the way, I’m a loon’ factor into her thought process leading to everything she thought she knew being way less explosive that what the truth holds.

Beneath is by no means a terrible film as it is competently shot and reasonably well directed. Star Nora Zehetner has done better work though in movies such as ‘Brick’ or in the few episodes of the television show ‘Heroes’ she popped up in, leading me to surmise that she’s more efficient as an actress playing fatal females than damsels in distress. You would think just the opposite since she looks so frail. Since most of the movie hinges on whether or not you believe Christy, or at least care about Christy’s pathology, her meddlesome nature combined with her tenuous grip on reality not only grated on the other characters it also grated on the audience.

SPOILERS ahead though as I did have some questions about the narrative. I didn’t quite understand why the husband had his wife pronounced dead. Because the wife killed the nurse and he had to do something with the body? And why did Vanessa kill the kindly old shop keeper? And why, after finally finding out that her sister was alive, did Christy slam the door on her, and why was Vanessa was trying to kill Christy in the first place?

‘Beneath’ basically comes off as yet another lackluster Northern American attempt at Japanese horror, though it’s certainly better the putrid ‘The Return’ it was neither all that frightening nor all that creepy. Unless you watch it with your eyes closed simply let the musical score take you away.

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