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Dagen Merrill
Nora Zehetner, Matthew Settle, Gabrielle Rose, Carly Pope, Don S. Davis, Jessica Amlee, Warren Christie, Gillian Barber
Writing Credits:
Kevin Burke, Dagen Merrill

Christy (Nora Zehetner) returns to her hometown years after a car accident that disfigured her older sister. Haunted by the accident in which she was the driver, she learns that her worst nightmares have either come true ... or are about to.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 8/7/07

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Beneath (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 18, 2007)

Not until I watched 2007’s Beneath have I ever felt quite so perplexed by a movie’s production credits. On one hand, we see that Paramount Classics backed the flick. Seems to me that a line called “Classics” implies something serious and dramatic, ala the Merchant-Ivory pictures. But then the credits follow this with a listing for MTV Films, a name that inspires thoughts of light pop culture.

How do the two combine for Beneath? Not well. College student Christy Wescot (Nora Zehetner) has gone through a lot of pain at a young age. Her parents died when she was 11, and her older sister Vanessa (Carly Pope) eventually dies from injuries suffered in a car crash when three years later. To make things worse, 14-year-old Christy (Brenna O’Brien) was driving and caused the wreck.

All of this leaves Christy as something of an emotional basket case, and she finds it tough to maintain a stable life. She encounters remnants of her past when family acquaintance Joseph (Don S. Davis) dies of a heart attack. At the funeral, she reunites with Vanessa’s widower John Locke (Matthew Settle), John’s controlling mother (Gabrielle Rose) and an old friend named Debbie (Nicola Anderson).

Christy also runs into some weirdness when she meets her niece Amy (Jessica Amlee). The youngster confides that a “dark thing” took away Joseph, not an ordinary heart attack. This spooks Christy since she’d suffered from so many haunting visions herself. She’s tormented by thoughts that her sister was buried alive. The movie follows these supernatural threads and other mysterious elements.

I can’t say that I expected much from Beneath, so it would be a mistake to label it as a disappointment. That said, however little stimulation I anticipated was too much. The end result was goofy at best and absurd and amateurish at worst.

If forced to choose one word to label Beneath, “clumsy” would first come to mind. “Stupid” would follow pretty closely, but “clumsy” races to the forefront in this jerky, awkward flick.

We sense this from literally minute one of Beneath as we follow Christy’s past in flashback. The scene in which Vanessa allows 14-year-old Christy to drive may well be the dumbest movie event I’ve seen in years. Not only does it seem completely idiotic for Vanessa to grant Christy’s wish, but also it comes across as what it is: a moronic plot event with no reason to exist other than to create a contrived event. There are many more logical and less obvious ways to injure someone in a car crash. I know that the filmmakers wanted Christy to be the cause - even though that’s really irrelevant to the story – but there are lots of less ridiculous methods they could have used.

To be honest, Beneath feels like nothing more than a student film. It has the stink of youthful pretension and unfocused ambition all over it. This story could have worked in a much more successful manner, but director Dagen Merrill lacks the skill to make it fly.

This means that at no point does Beneath display any subtlety. It makes sure we see every little element that will become important and never allows any room for interpretation or dimensionality. Instead, we find lots of usual cheap scares and obvious use of music for emphasis. There’s not a single unexpected moment to be found in this stinker.

Add to that stiff, awkward acting and you’ll find nothing satisfying in Beneath. The story meanders and never coalesces into anything worthwhile. The lack of competence behind it robs it of any potential and leaves us with a wholly forgettable piece of cinema.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Beneath appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No intense problems developed via this transfer, but I thought the image remained consistently bland.

This tendency affected sharpness. Although I couldn’t cite any instances of true softness, I felt the movie’s definition seemed lackluster. There’s a general blandness to the flick that made it seem a bit loose. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I also noticed no edge enhancement of source flaws.

Supernatural thrillers don’t tend toward bright ‘n’ sunny colors, so expect subdued tones from Beneath. Within those parameters, the hues looked decent. They seemed a bit flat but not badly so and usually worked fine within the design. Blacks appeared slightly inky and drab, while shadows tended to come across as a little heavy and dense. Again, this transfer lacked significant flaws, but it never seemed above average.

Along similar lines, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Beneath failed to display much pizzazz. The soundfield favored music and general ambience. A few “scare” moments amped up the effects to a moderate degree, but they didn’t produce much material that I could call memorable. Music demonstrated good imaging, though, and became the most prominent aspect of the track.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech was natural and concise. I heard some iffy looping but the lines were intelligible and lacked edginess. Music seemed dynamic and full, while effects were clear and clean. This was a perfectly acceptable soundtrack.

The DVD opens with some ads. We find promos for Next and Year of the Dog. These also can be found in the DVD’s Previews area along with a clip for Disturbia. No other supplements accompany Beneath.

You’d think that a young filmmaker would be able to bring a new, fresh sensibility to the horror genre. That could be the case but definitely doesn’t happen for the amateurish Beneath. Clumsy and stupid, the movie lacks any of the rudiments to allow it to prosper. The DVD presents fairly average picture and audio and fails to include any real supplements. All that for $26.99! Stay far away from Beneath.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6842 Stars Number of Votes: 19
4 3:
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