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March 28, 2011

Movie Review: Beneath The Dark (2010)

By Greg Goodsell

Directed by Chad Feehan

Paul (Josh Stewart) and his gal pal Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) are tooling around in California’s Mojave Desert when they nearly crash while making out behind the wheel of their speeding vehicle. There is a brief cutaway and then we see the not terribly bright couple ask each other “Are you O.K.? Are you O.K.?” Anyone who has watched films for more than a few months knows instinctively that these lovebirds are definitely NOT O.K. and that Beneath the Dark is well on its way down a well-trodden path. The only reason M. Night Shyamalan got away with it in The Sixth Sense (1999) was because he did it exceptionally well, and since Beneath the Dark is the work of youthful, inexperienced hands … eh.

Buy Beneath the Dark on DVD

The couple then check into a skeevy roadside motel presided over by greasy-haired desk clerk Frank (Chris Browning). Paul and Adrienne check in, make out, bicker some more … the film suddenly cuts away to Frank dropping off his bleach-blonde hosebag wife (Angela Featherstone) while on the way to his job as a security guard. Before anyone can say, “Wait a minute! Isn’t he the desk clerk? What’s he doing away from the motel?” remember the bit about this project being in youthful, inexperienced hands.

In the meantime, while Paul enjoys coffee and cherry pie at the motel’s abandoned diner, a black man (Afemo Omilami) with a deep, sonorous voice approaches him to make cryptic statements. One subplot ends tragically, story tangents are left dangling, things grow more nonsensical while the viewer who hangs on expecting the film to go anywhere other than straight to the Carnival of Souls (1962) is left an empty shell, wishing they checked out of this motel in the first 15 minutes.

Filmmakers who have made a substantial body of work will sometimes release features that are full of unfinished thoughts, intriguing ideas left undeveloped, story points that end abruptly and extraneous characters who don’t further the plot. These “sketchbook features” are often rushed into production when there is a creative lull on the filmmaker’s part, just to remind their audiences they’re still at it, in between major projects. (Think David Lynch.)

Beneath the Dark is likewise half-baked and shapeless, but as this is the directorial debut of 32-year-old Chad Feehan, viewers won’t be as forgiving. While the photography of Jason Blount is highly atmospheric, and many of the performers are bright and capable, Beneath the Dark is mainly beneath contempt.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Greg. Plus I love your use of the world "hosebag."