I have been reading about this film for some time now, both in Fangoria and HorrorHound magazines. For the most part the reviews have been favorable and I am always up for a new monster movie. This is not your typical monster on the loose film and to be honest, I wish it was. The movie I am talking about is BENEATH, directed by Larry Fessenden.
The story concerns six graduating high school seniors on a final get together celebration before they all go off in different directions. They are all friends and yet come from different backgrounds. You have Kitty, the group whore, the two jock brothers, Matt and Simon (who have both slept with Kitty), you have the film geek Zeke (who filmed Simon having sex with Kitty), you have friend Deb, the only somewhat likable character, and then there is Johnny (who, not surprisingly, slept with Kitty), who seems to know about the secret of the lake they are visiting.
The problem here is that all of these people, with the possible exception of Deb, are so annoying and unlikable that it makes the movie almost unwatchable. The more you get to know these people the less you like them and in the face of danger, in this case a monster fish, their true colors come out and you realize even more how selfish these characters are. I understand that this is the point of the movie though; I just think the director went too far. These people should have some redeeming qualities, to make you feel bad for them and the danger they are facing, but they don’t! Deb’s character is the only one that is somewhat likable and yet she dies before her character is even allowed to develop. BENEATH does not just refer to the monster beneath the surface of the water; it also refers to what is beneath a person’s exterior. The monster is actually doing the world a favor by getting rid of these people!
I also found it interesting at not only how quickly these characters turn on each other, but also at how inept they are at getting back to shore. Sure they lost both oars and the boat is slowly filling with water, but the shore is always in view and yet no matter how hard they try, they never seem to get any closer to their goal. These so-called friends are also so quick to sacrifice one another to the fish instead of making a genuine effort to get everyone to safety. One thing they like to do, after feeding Deb’s body to the fish, is to figure out which one of them has the least to offer the world. That person is then forced overboard to be sacrificed to the monster. The plan is that when the person voted off is getting eaten, the remaining people will use their hands to paddle closer to shore. The funny thing is, none of these people have anything of positive value to offer anyone. Then, as soon as the person that got voted off the boat is getting devoured, the remaining people in the boat just bicker with each other, getting nothing accomplished. In one scene, after Deb’s body is sacrificed, four of the friends paddle frantically to shore while Zeke just sits there filming the monster fish. I have never seen a group of people so deserving of each other in my life!
The only saving grace of this film are the creature effects. These are handled very nicely and are all done with full size animatronic puppets. Some of the scenes are very convincing and there were times I even asked myself, “How’d they do that?” I still don’t honestly know if I can recommend this film though! I understand the point the director was trying to get across, that the monsters within us are sometimes worse than the oversized beast trying to kill us but like I said before, these characters are so unlikable that the movie becomes unbearable at times. They probably should have toned back these characters a bit and perhaps had them redeem themselves at some point. At the end it is Kitty and Simon that survive and they just cannot be happy with this; Simon has to strangle Kitty before attempting to leave the lake. At least Simon does get his in the end.
This movie is not a SyFy Channel original movie which is why the effects are probably so good. I guess I would recommend watching this film once, take it for what it is, and then let it slowly fade from memory. Monster movies should be fun. When they are made having hidden meanings with a cast that no one likes, it takes away from the fun and that is what this movie lacks: fun!