Image Entertainment, Raincreek Productions, Sunset Pictures
March 22nd, 2013
Release length: 1:36:00
Within the first five minutes, you will be hooked. You are introduced to a man named Jack (Timothy Fall) who is walking his dog. Along the way he bumps into the town’s mortician, Ely (Dennis Quaid), who snaps and takes him hostage, forcing him to dig his own grave. It’s a very intense scene, and the two play off each other quite well. Dennis performs the actions of a man off the deep end perfectly, while Timothy’s shifting from reason to begging is top notch. Sadly, this tense introduction ends, and the opening credits roll, giving way to a long gap of nothing.
For the most part, Beneath the Darkness is pushed along by four main characters. There’s Travis (Tony Oller), Danny (Devon Werkheiser), Brian (Stephen Lunsford), and Abby (Aimee Teegarden). Everyone does manage to play off each other once in a while for the first half, except for Brian who is your generic jerk through the entire film, severely out of place and poorly acted. Eventually they learn about a ghost at Ely’s place, and while his truck is in for repair, all but Travis sneak in to try to find it, only to come across a body and be caught by Ely, who has been rather tame up to this point since the introduction. After letting the kids go, he grabs one of them, pinning him to the wall. Travis goes to rescue him, and the ability for Dennis Quaid to suddenly change acting personas is on display once more as he throws the teen down the stairs and stomps on his neck, breaking it.
After Travis witnesses Ely’s actions, they escape, and he is now determined to prove that the town’s here is really a cold blooded murderer. This drive drags Abby into things, of her own will of course, and sets her up as the love interest. Sadly, this angle isn’t fleshed out too well most of the time. Brian, however, doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it until much later, keeping that douche trait alive. The two continue to break in and try to find evidence that could convict him, many times over getting them in trouble with the law, and eventually having Abby kidnapped, leaving it up to Travis to rescue her and tell her how to tear through duct tape with her teeth because, well, she’s a cheerleader, so she’s got to be portrayed helpless, right? Of course this leads to the final confrontation that pushes Ely further over the edge, and an ending that ends the film with a little light hearted comedy.
There isn’t enough words to express how impressive Dennis Quaid is in this film. His character’s sudden shift in personality is displayed perfectly, and every time he snaps on screen, the film immediately becomes a tense roller coaster. Even when he’s the typical upstanding citizen there’s a level of awkwardness you can feel. The main problem is that the rest of the cast are largely poor actors. Many times over you will feel as though Aimee, Stephen, and Tony are all just reading lines off cue cards, often coming off as mechanical, and in Stephen’s case incredibly stiff. It also doesn’t help the writing is full of generic conversations that seem really out of place, the parents are all idiots, and the cops are as useless as the bumbling officers in the original 1972 rape revenge movie Last House on the Left.
Even when the officers know something is wrong, they just leave. At one point they end up outside Ely’s house when looking for Travis after he escapes police custody. Sgt. Nickerson (Brett Cullen) feels that something wrong when he realizes Ely’s van isn’t there, but all the lights are on. He goes to the back door, calls out to Ely to see if he’s home, then just gives up and leaves with the other officers saying it’s all clear. If he was concerned enough to go to the back door, he’d check the rest of the outside as well to make sure he wasn’t outside unconscious. But that’s not the worst of the idiocy. Travis’s mother is the worst of them all, constantly crying and warning Travis of Ely. She acts like she’s hiding something from him all the time, hinting she knows something about his past but never says anything, just cries more. Then again Travis usually turns heels on her and belts out about how she didn’t believe him over a past event, and doesn’t believe him now even though she constantly is siding with him. The most she does is tell Sgt. Nickerson that Abby is missing.
On top of all of this adult idiocy, the film never shuts up. It’s rare you get even a moment of silence. The generic score is constantly playing, having few alterations over the span of ten scenes back-to-back, if not more. That is unless you count an increase in volume for moments that are supposed to be meaningful which end up drowning out the dialogue, such as when Abby and Travis are alone and build the love interest angle. If the music stops for any reason, it’s replaced with background noise such as crickets chirping, distant sirens, dogs barking, or characters talking with rapid-fire line deliveries. To put it bluntly, this movie suffers from ADHD and runs out of Ritalin about twenty minutes in.
Beneath the Darkness really tries to be something that it fails miserably to live up to. Limited and moderately boring sets, poor acting aside two star characters, one of which is only involved in the first five minutes, the lack of any sort of silence for more than two seconds, wretched dialogue between characters, unnatural line delivery, and typical brain dead parents and police officers make this an abnormally rough film to sit through. If it weren’t for Dennis Quaid’s amazing performance and the tension he creates with any other actor or actress he has a scene with, this film would be an entirely lost cause. If anything, watch this for his performances, and fast forward through any scenes he’s not in. Seriously, you’ll miss one or two plot points you can figure out on your own just by watching the scenes that fly by when.
|Overall Score: 2.5/10