While normally I enjoy Larry Fessenden’s indie horror films, “Beneath” really is probably the worst he’s ever offered his fan base. Mean spirited, badly acted, and incredibly heavy handed, “Beneath” is never sure of its intention. The only thing it knows is that it keeps looking to the audience asking “Who is the real monster in this movie?” Again and again, every time these despicable and horrible characters make a decision that just inspires you to wish bloody death on them, Fessenden holds the mirror up asking “Who is the real monster in this movie?” After about an hour, I thought “Okay, we get it! Stop forcing it down our throat, already!” Yes, the giant man eating fish is bad, but these people are cold hearted, vicious bastards. Sing another tune, please!
In an interview, director Larry Fessenden compared “Beneath” to “Jaws,” but give me a break, here. He just took the popular segment from “Creepshow 2,” called “The Raft,” and extended it in to a tedious and plodding ninety minutes. Not to mention he cribbed from some morality themes from Frank Darabont’s “The Mist,” and injected them awkwardly. He made the characters even more unlikable, and rather than an enigmatic blob, he created a laughably created giant fish that looks like a mix between a catfish, and a barracuda. And we’re never told how it got in there, and how it’s existed so long on no real food source. It seems to get off on blood from its victims, and then becomes a vicious predator, but in the opening, character Johnny is given a speech by his older friend about respecting the lake, and leaving the spirit of the lake in peace. So is the fish monster just a demon that comes up to devour these awful bastards? Or is it just a stock giant man eating fish?
And is the lake an actual place? Whether this is intentional or just bad directing, the lake constantly goes from a medium sized water hole to a massive humongous ocean. The characters constantly brag about how they could swim to shore easily, but they never actually try it at any point. One moment they row and seem to be close to land, and suddenly they’re back in the middle of the lake. This has to be the largest lake in the world, judging by the film’s editing. They spend hours rowing, and pushing the water with their hands, and they make zero progress. How can we buy the giant fish as a menace if the film tries (and fails) to convince us the lake is a behemoth body of water? And you have to love how whenever the fish rows by, the characters begin screaming “What do you want?!” and “Why can’t you leave us alone?!” Did they really expect the fish to spit out a note of its intentions at any point?
It’s also never explained why character Kitty has such a deep-seated grasp on every character in the film. Everyone has had an affair with her, and the movie never makes it clear why she’s a character worthy of being lusted after. “Beneath” feels as if it were made by an amateur on his second film, which is surprising considering Larry Fessenden is a seasoned and often talented filmmaker. The movie is tonally confused, its characters are evil to the point where they’re practically soap opera caricatures, and Fessenden never quite knows how to end the movie. Every time you think he’s fading to black, there’s always an epilogue that laughably reaches for shock value. “Beneath” is a miserable and tedious horror film, and one that pales in comparison to director Fessenden’s better efforts.