Directed by Ben Ketai.
Starring Kelly Noonan, Jeff Fahey, Brent Briscoe, Kurt Caceres, Eric Etebari, Molly Hagan, Larry Moran and Joey Kern.
A team of miners get trapped 600 feet underground after the mine collapses, and as the air runs out so does their sanity.
In Beneath, Jeff Fahey (Machete) stars as George Marsh, a miner of 35 years’ experience about to retire. But on his last down the mine his student environmental lawyer daughter Sam (Kelly Noonan) joins his team to see what her father has been doing for all these years, and as she is being shown around the working area 600 feet below the surface the an accident occurs and the cave starts to collapse, trapping Sam, George and the rest of the workers. Having to wait 72 hours for a rescue team the survivors hole up in the rescue chamber set up in case of an emergency, but as the oxygen levels start to dip the claustrophobic environment begins to take its toll on the group and certain members of the team start to have visions – are they alone down in the dark or is there something else going on?
With obvious location comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and, more prominently, The Descent, Beneath also draws a comparison with The Perfect Storm, a film with a story about a doomed crew heading out into the unknown after having sat around toasting their next job with loved ones the night before. But whereas The Perfect Storm took its time to build up the characters and get us invested in them before they head out to disaster, Beneath throws you straight into George’s retirement party where we are introduced to Sam and get a few fleeting glimpses of some of the mining crew before we’re down at the mine. The film is 85 minutes long and the mine collapses at the 25 minute mark, leaving an hour for things to get nasty and, possibly, resolved.
And things do get nasty, as bones are broken and various people get attacked but trying to keep up that initial tension for an hour about people that we didn’t really get a chance to get invested in – and therefore care about – is something of a task. To be fair, director Ben Ketai does a solid job with what he’s got as his camera barely stays still, creating a kinetic energy (for the most part) and a tense atmosphere, helped along by an effective sound design, but where the film really falls short is with the script, characters and pacing.
With regards to the characters, the only person we really know anything about is Sam, but we’re not given nearly enough and she never comes across as likeable. There is an obvious conflict with her father due to her job that is hinted at a couple of times but never delved into in any great detail, as is her friendship and (hinted at) previous relationship with miner Randy (Joey Kern). George himself is also very thinly written, an illness suggested but never given any detail and his behaviour once the brown stuff hits the fan never really justified, and again there’s just not enough to latch onto or to fill him out into anything other than a man with issues that we’re not likely to find out about. And none of it is down to Jeff Fahey, who gives a convincing performance of a man having to bear a burden, but the underdeveloped way in which his character is written makes him very shallow and unsympathetic, which is pretty much the case with everybody in the film.
All in all, however, Beneath is decent enough for a watch and does what it needs to do but it could have been a whole lot more. The ‘based on a true story’ tagline is obviously not entirely true once the miners get trapped and the suggestions of zombies, ghosts and crazed murderers start manifesting themselves, but the ambiguous way with which the situation is resolved (or not) means it is open to interpretation, and the gore and violence that gets shown keeps things interesting, if not totally convincing (although the dark setting helps hide a multitude of CGI sins). If you liked The Descent then it’s a good companion piece as it has a similar vibe but on its own merits it does feel a bit underwhelming.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★