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Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/7/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/4/2007
When I think of MTV...well, frankly I get sad. I hit adolescence just as MTV was born, and it was a very important part of my teenage years, as the cable channel helped to define my generation and it aided me in discovering new music. Today, there is no "music" in "Music Television", as the channel shows one obnoxious reality show after another. I certainly don't think of direct-to-DVD horror movies when I think of MTV, but that's what we've gotten with Beneath.
Beneath opens with a series of flashbacks, as we see Christy (Nora Zehetner) driving with her sister, Vanessa (Carly Pope), in the passenger seat. An accident throws Christy from the car, which then explodes with Vanessa trapped inside. After enduring a month of agony, Vanessa dies and Christy is confined to a mental institution. Christy makes a scene at Vanessa's funeral, as she announces to everyone that she's convinced that her sister isn't dead.
Jump ahead to present day, where Christy has returned to her hometown for the funeral of the caretaker from her childhood home. Although she has tried to adjust, Christy is still a somewhat disturbed young woman, as she has recently been expelled from medical school and she keeps a notebook filled with bizarre drawings. After the funeral, Christy visits John Locke (Matthew Settle), who was married to Vanessa, and his daughter Amy (Jessica Amlee). Also there is John's severe and unpleasant mother (Gabrielle Rose). John gives Christy a chilly reception, although he claims that he doesn't blame her for Vanessa's death. Amy tells Christy that a "dark thing" killed the caretaker and that she's seen it around their sprawling house. Still convinced that there was a mystery surrounding Vanessa's death, Christy begins to do some investigating and finds that no one wants to discuss it. When another death occurs in the house, Christy begins to believe Amy's story, and she's convinced that John is hiding something. As she begins to dig deeper, she realizes that all of the odd drawings in her book have a true meaning and that her life may be in jeopardy as well.
Now that I think about it, I guess that it's not all that surprising that MTV Films would release a horror film, as they are often popular with a younger demographic. I must say that I'm surprised that Beneath is basically a old-fashioned gothic horror movie. I had expected it to be stylistically similar to something like House on Haunted Hill (1999) or Th13teen Ghosts, with fast editing and distorted visuals. But, director Dagen Merrill has stuck with a fairly straight-forward visual style here. I wouldn't call the look of the film dull, but the movie certainly leans in that direction.
Beneath opens with a lot of promise, as the car accident is quite shocking (the way in which Christy is thrown from the car is well done) and the flashback to the funeral is effective. However, once the main story gets started, Beneath becomes very muddled. When Christy returns to her hometown, the relationships aren't clear at first. Then, she's suddenly staying with an old friend. Then, she's back in John's house. The running time for the movie, with credits, is only 81 minutes. There were several scenes where I felt that something was missing and I can't help but wonder if important scenes were cut from the movie. The movie also has a very redundant feel, as Christy keeps going back to John's house and then leaving, and then going back. This, combined with the odd editing, gives the impression that the story is never going anywhere.
These issues with the pacing are truly unfortunate, as I really wanted to like Beneath. Again, the movie has a throw-back feel and this could have easily been made in the late 70s or early 80s. But, unlike some recent shockers which simply mimicked an older look and feel, Beneath comes across as something which truly could have been made in that era and was left undiscovered for years. The movie mixes "the old dark house" setting with the classic "am I going crazy?" story and at times, there is a great deal of mood here. Unfortunately, that mood is hampered by the shallow story. Once the basic premise is set into motion, all of the pieces simply fall into place. I must admit that I was surprised by one plot twist, but the final revelation wasn't very shocking. However, I must admit that the conclusion of the final fight scene came out of nowhere, and was disturbing.
Home video companies such as Fox and Columbia have been known to snap up low-budget horror films and release them directly to video, so there's nothing wrong with Paramount and MTV Films getting into the game. I just wish that this release had been more satisfying. Beneath has a lot going for it as it presents a pleasantly retro story and a fair amount of mood, but the story goes in circles and the film's "surprises" are a let down. This movie won't impress most horror aficionados, but it wouldn’t be “beneath” them to rent it.
Beneath rises to the top on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I’m not sure if Beneath was shot on film or HD, but the DVD transfer is incredibly sharp and clear. The picture shows no grain or defects from the source material. The image has a very nice amount of depth and the colors look fantastic. I noted no overt video noise or artifacting. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine and the surround sound and subwoofer action is quite effective during the accident scene and the “shock” scenes. The dynamic range is well balanced.
There are no extra features on this DVD.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long