Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Larry Fessenden's, "Beneath"

of 7 viewers "Liked" "Beneath" (USA, 2013)
Here's what the citizens of the Overlook Theatre had to say:

Lord Battle - "Beneath is a Die-O-Drama set on a lake and executed perfectly; no flashbacks, no crazy scheme to get everyone together, and easily one of the coolest Die-O-Drama hosts. Leave it to Larry Fessenden to make a smart film about a big-ass fish killing teenagers." - 4.5 Stars

Johnny Ocelot - "In a story of submerged survival, Beneath doesn't sink. Glad they actually used practical effects for this one." - 3 Stars

KillDozer - "Director Larry Fessenden (ABCs of DeathThe Last Writer) president of Glass Eye Pix, directs this nature run amok film that proves once again that people can be their own worst enemy when it comes to survival in the wild. I have to give a lot of credit to the practical effects crew on this film, they managed to produce an amazing looking "killer fish" that didn't go over the top or bore you with all its screen time. The mood and setting of this film reminded me a lot of "The Raft" from CreepShow 2. The characters were set up very well and, even though this felt like familiar territory, there were still plenty of shocks and surprises to not only keep you entertained but also interested in what was on screen. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the lake... It is! Well just as long as you don't go in with a boat full of high school kids willing to sacrifice anyone who gets in their way of escaping a fish who will eat anything that falls in." - 4 Stars (Collection Worthy)

Huntress - "Beneath may follow a pattern, but it does so with a different take on the situation. And even when I realized where things were going, I was still pleasantly surprised." - 4 Stars

The Impostor - "Every monster movie needs a good monster and this fish was both comical and threatening. I loved how it seemed the fish played games with this awful group of friends. The character development in this film was really good. As the story progresses, we see beneath the disguises of these friendships. I was thoroughly surprised by Beneath; it was more than just a monster fish attacking people in a boat and I kept trying to predict how it would all end." - 4 Stars

Math Mage - "A boat full of assholes vs a delicious monster." - 4 Stars

Book Wyrm - "At times this movie proved to be too real for me. The plights of each character struggling to get out of their hometown and live another day really got to me. This felt too tragic for such a comical fish." - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

A film titled Beneath with a "big-ass" fish on the cover usually spells one thing for horror fans; a Jaws ripoff that features a big CG creature that slowly kills a bunch of B-actors, much in the vein of everything SyFy. Larry Fessenden's Beneath could not be further from this initial assumption.

Beneath is a film less about what's beneath the surface of a lake, than it is about the surface of human relationships. Like all great microcosm films, our group is broken down into easily identifiable stereotypes; the jock, the hot popular girl, the nerd, the overachiever, the outcast, and the party girl. The one thing that keeps this cast from being torn to shreds instantly throughout the film is the fact that our fish isn't a slasher, it's a host. The term "host" is something I've come up with to describe the slasher-esque characters who hold people hostage in Die-O-Dramas. The fish, acting as a host, hangs out making sure our characters obey the rules. This often means forcing the group of unlikely victims to figure out why they are being tormented and murdered one by one. In Beneath, our host forces the characters to brainstorm ideas to get to shore. Unfortunately, these fresh out of high school kids don't actually like each other much and are all there for various selfish/petty reasons. The obvious one being Johnny going on the trip despite the fact that he knew about the fish/hex, which is proven by his necklace and article clippings in his room. This is also important since he tried to give the only safety from the fish to Kitty, which means he left on this dangerous trip to be near her but also knew that if he warned everyone, they may have canceled and he probably wouldn't get another chance to see her again. Another selfish reason steams from Kitty; through the brothers arguing a new insight is gained as to Kitty's motives and it would appear that this trip may have been her giving Simon one last chance to out do his brother Matt and win her once and for all...

Like most Die-O-Dramas the host sits by while the human monsters display far worse behavior than any mere murderer could muster. But unlike most Die-O-Dramas Beneath takes place outside of a basement or hidden building in a sprawling city, it all unfolds in the middle of a lake. This presents a whole new mess of problems for our filmmakers, the most important being how do we keep them stuck out there? The obvious answer is make it unsafe to paddle using your hands. This is where so many horror films phone it in and get some CG creature to menace you while never actually being scary. Beneath deviates from the norm here by making one of the coolest practical fish monsters I've ever seen.

The Fractured FX Team & their fish!
Maybe more amazing than the fish is how they got the crane for all those crane shots out on the lake! Check out Deep Fried Interview's conversation with the cinematographer who worked on Beneath, Gordon Arkenburg, to learn exactly how they managed that and to see more awesome photos like the one above.
(I borrowed their photo so they get a plug)

- Lord Battle

*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.

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