floydcountytimes.com

‘Beneath’

Tom Doty Times Columnist

May 1, 2014

Six high school seniors turn on each other like rabid dogs when they are menaced by a prehistoric fish at a remote lake, in this micro-budgeted horror yarn that might just have you rooting for the monster.


Independent cinema used to mean low key dramas with very little action, but all of that is changing with the new Hollywood. Today 9-out-of-10 flicks bypass the major studios and go straight to television, DVD or are streamed online. Theaters only play the big budgeted efforts with built-in audiences and an advertising budget that could feed a Third World country.


Now that film technology is cheaper, independent flicks are looking better and attracting talented folks who can tell any sort of story they choose. Horror cinema has benefitted from this change in a big way. This film premiered on the Chiller Channel and delivers the goods, so who cares if you had to save money by getting your popcorn from the supermarket.


The story is pretty straightforward. A sextet of teens head out to a private lake for a little mindless partying. Just as well, since they are mostly a brainless and self-centered bunch. The group consists of warring alpha male brothers, the blonde beauty that everyone adores, the athletic brunette who also adores blondie, the class film nerd, and the token Native American who is there to show how politically correct these doofs can be.


The plan is to party on the far side of the lake, so they hop in a boat and start paddling. Plans get changed when some of the group decide to swim for a bit, and things are complicated even further by the arrival of our giant aqua monster. Turns out, this beast loves human blood and is partial to the adolescent variety.


The group dynamic falls apart faster than a Walmart bookshelf. The group figures out that feeding the fish a fresh body will buy them some time to row for safety. Before you know it, they are flunking Decision-Making 101 by using “Survivor” rules to pick who gets voted off the boat. This means we have to sit through endless monologues about how important they plan to be when they grow up.


Before you know it, loyalties are eviscerated by the survival instinct, and even the bond of brotherhood isn’t strong enough to stop the ensuing carnage. The fish winds up being the most sympathetic character, as we see how petty the humans perform in the face of danger.


This is a fun monster movie that also manages to say something about maturity and friendship, if you like that sort of thing. The fish monster is especially cool. For once you get an in camera effect and not some CGI creature that is sloppily inserted into the action. The flick salutes films like “Jaws” and “Piranha” while also skewering reality TV culture .


It all comes to you courtesy of director Larry Fessenden. This guy knows independent cinema and has managed to carve out a horror niche in the market which he has used to launch other directors while occasionally getting his own films out. His best effort was “The Last Winter,” but seek out his first flick (“Habit”) if you want an interesting take on vampirism as an addiction.


Best line: “We have zero oars. We have a hole in the side of the boat with water leaking in , and a giant flesh-eating fish in the water.”


2013, unrated.