From Beneath (2012)
Creature/monster flicks come in all shapes and sizes. You have your “in-your-face” flicks like the GODZILLA and GAMERA; your more subtle flicks like THE THAW; and your more suspenseful/mysterious flicks like CLOVERFIELD. I grew up on the classic creature flick and as a result have an affinity for any giant or other-sized creature. But 2012’s FROM BENEATH does something different and interesting. FROM BENEATH is a creature flick that never exposes or shows off the creature. Normally I could stop writing the review here and dismiss this one straight out, but the approach this film tookl deserves a closer look.
In the pre-credit sequence we find a man wandering around as if in some kind of daze with an unconscious (or dead) body in his arms. He’s slowly making his way to a small pond/lake where he lays the body down. A closer look at the man (Blake Retter) shows that his physical appearance has been somehow altered. Flash to the opening credits and then we join Sam and Jason (Lauren Watson and Jamie Temple, respectively) as they’re driving to the secluded home of Sam’s sister. They finally arrive only to be greeted by an empty house. Sam & Jason assume the family went into town and they’d be gone for a while. The two decide to look around and wind up at Ye Olde Swimmin’ Hole where they decide to take a dip. Some light-hearted, G-rated frolicking ensues, and when they get out of the water, Sam has a leech-like looking thing attached to her shoulder and Jason was bitten by something. Something rather big (which he didn’t feel??). A closer examination of the bite reveals that part of whatever bit him has remained inside his leg and looks to be wiggling/traveling its way up towards his brain!!
At this point I’d be kinda freaking out, but Sam, who is his girlfriend mind you, casually looks at the thing crawling inside his leg and says one of the most classic insensitive lines I’ve ever heard in a genre film:
“I wouldn’t worry about it. Your body will probably kill it off.”
REALLY?? Just let his body hopefully kill it off?!?? Now we gradually watch Jason as he slowly deteriorates in both mind and body. He starts with fevers, hallucinations, and eventually moves on to body pains and a wicked looking bite mark infection. All the while Sam is trying to figure out what’s happening to Jason and what happened to her sister and family. Are the two events connected? Come on Nancy Drew, connect those dots!!
FROM BENEATH definitely falls into the ‘slow burn’ movie category. There’s not too many action sequences, but at the same time writer-director David Doucette keeps everything moving along at a nice pace. Doucette is also the cinematographer and editor and captures some really remarkable shots here. His use of greens and darker colors in the nighttime sky was very eerie and created a great atmosphere. I also liked his playing around with various camera angles.
One of the best elements of FROM BENEATH was the soundtrack (original music by Jesse Wentzloff). The minimalistic music both captured and created the ‘impending doom’ feel of the film. There was a very heavy atmosphere created here and you knew things weren’t going to end well for the cast. It’s a spectacular soundtrack!!
The biggest problem here was with the script. Not the story itself, but the details in the story. There were too many elements within the script that were either glossed over or weren’t thought through completely. Of course we get the typical, “I don’t get cell phone reception out here,” to account for why they just don’t call for help. But why the hell didn’t they go to the hospital after Jason got bit and had something crawling around inside him (oh that’s right; his body was gonna kill it off)? When they eventually decide to go to the hospital they find that their car doesn’t work anymore. It was working fine a few hours ago. The writing just felt a little lazy in some places. We also never get an explanation as to what the thing in the swimming hole is. That itself didn’t bother me, but we also never get a good look at it. Check out the DVD cover art above and you pretty much have seen the entire creature. I like it when films don’t explain away every little detail (I don’t need to be spoon-fed every minute plot element), but at least show us something fun and scary!!
Overall FROM BENEATH is a decent flick. All the technical elements (the lighting, editing, cinematography, etc…) are very well done. The main recurring problem is with the script and how at certain points it felt rather lazy. It would’ve been nice to have seen the creature instead of just one or two tentacles!! The big question is whether FROM BENEATH is body horror? Well in theory it is. It’s about a man who is emotionally and physically altered from a parasite, but in execution it doesn’t quite hit the mark. There’s definitely no Cronenbergian nastiness going on here, but the idea is inherent. With a bigger budget and another go around on the script, FROM BENEATH could be pretty kick ass. As it is, Doucette gives us a pretty fun time and proves himself to be an accomplished technical filmmaker. Now it’s time to focus on the details. Definitely recommended, though.
Director: David Doucette (& writer, editor, & cinematographer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer