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Blu-ray Review: 'Beneath'

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The Film:

Beneath” continues the tradition of having characters stuck in sticky situations in which there seems to be no easy escape from. It’s a general premise we’ve seen several times before in films like “ATM,” where we find the characters stuck in a small building containing an ATM while a killer waits for them outside, and “Frozen,” where three people get stuck on a ski lift several feet in the air. With “Beneath,” we have a group of six friends who are out celebrating their recent graduation. For their one last get together before they go their separate ways, they decide to boat across a lake and have a party. However, things quickly get out of hand when a monstrous fish begins attacking them and their boat. What started out as a fun getaway suddenly turns into a fight for survival as they must find a way to get back to shore before the creature kills them all.

While the “stuck in a sticky situation” premise can make for some nail-biting tension (see “Phone Booth”), most of the time it ends up falling flat on its face, and unfortunately this is another instance where it does just that. The main problem that such a premise has, and to which the others I mentioned up top fall victim to, is that these are situations that can easily be solved by anyone with half a brain. “ATM” gave the characters several chances to escape. “Frozen” had at least a couple of simple solutions that would have seen the characters safely to the ground. Likewise, “Beneath” has a few solutions that would have prevented so much chaos from ensuing, but as with the other films, the other problem is that if the characters find the solution just as easily as the audience, then there wouldn’t be much of a film.

However, beyond that, there are several things in this film that simply don’t add up. From early on, we are told that one of them knows about the creature in the lake, and yet, he decides not to tell anyone about it. As to why, we can only guess, but once more it probably has something to do with the fact that if he did say something then the situation would never occur. Later on, once their predicament begins, we find the characters acting in the most inane manner possible. Obviously, this isn’t anything new, but it does add on to the frustration of how much of what’s to come could have been avoided. For example, breaking their one good oar while using it as a weapon against the fish wasn’t the smartest thing they could have done. At least they manage to find a solution to that part of their problem later on, but by this point, the characters have broken down so much that all they can do is continue to act like imbeciles.

As for the audience, all we can really do is shake our heads as the petty jealousies erupt among the love triangle, causing them to lose sight of what’s a little more important than whether or not one character made out with another. To top off the long list of problems with this film, it’s simply too long. Even at just under 90 minutes, it’s very stretched out with unnecessary fluff. I would say that it might have worked better as a short film, but given the overarching problems with the premise, I don’t think even that would do it. Like other films of this type, “Beneath” has a flawed foundation, and because of that there’s little that can be done to save it. With absurdity stacked on top of absurdity, all you get here is a film that’s laughably unbelievable.

Video/Audio:

“Beneath” is presented in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture is crisp and clear and actually looks better than some big-budget films I’ve seen on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD Master Audio presents another soundtrack that’s a little soft, but once adjusted, all sounds come through perfectly clear. Given that this is a Shout! Factory release, it’s no surprise that we get pretty good quality in both departments.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick
  • A Look Behind Beneath: Making the “Fish Movie”
  • Outtakes
  • Fessenden on Jaws
  • From the Web: What the Zeke?
  • What’s in Black Lake?

The main extras to pay attention to here are the “Making of” featurette and the Outtakes (these are of the non-comedic variety), both of which feature a ton of behind the scenes footage of the film being made. Unfortunately the commentary is extremely dull and bland as Fessenden (director/editor) and Reznick (sound designer) don’t have any interesting insights into the making of the film. As for “Fessenden on Jaws,” “What the Zeke?,” and “What’s in Black Lake?,” these were all completely pointless additions that don’t have anything to do with the making of the film.

Conclusion:

Sadly, this is another instance where no amount of great special features could have saved this release from getting denied a recommendation. The film is simply too sloppy and full of holes, many of which should have been easily noticed from the writing of the script through pre-production. Films like this can work, but you need to make sure that the premise is plausible and not one that can easily be gotten out of. As we’ve clearly seen, this is a common mistake that filmmakers make, which merely turns “Beneath” into another misguided project to toss on the heap.

Score: 2/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, The Slumber Party Massacre, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Fear, Oldboy (2013), Cold Comes the Night, Gravity, Mr. Nobody, The Americans: Season One, Hellbenders, Rocky: Heavyweight Collection, Chicago: Diamond Edition, All is Lost

Now playing in theaters: Pompeii, Labor Day, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Also be sure to check out my lists of the Best and Worst Films of 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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