There’s something completely enthralling about a film that uses a device, such as danger (or in this case, a monstrously blood thirsty sea creature of a fish), to point out how quickly people can turn on each other when their lives are at stake. Lucky for fans of those types of films, Larry Fessenden’s BENEATH does just that, providing viewers with a pretty entertaining ride that, though not perfect, keeps you guessing what will happen right up until the end.
BENEATH follows six recently graduated high schoolers who decide to celebrate, by taking a rowboat across a lake. Almost immediately, things go south really quick, as they discover that there is a pretty massive fish that resides in the lake and doesn’t take too kindly to bratty kids disrespecting the waters. What makes it worse, is that not only are the kids warned about it, via Johnny (the only one of them that seems to care about more than just himself), but there’s a carelessness to them all that gives viewers a “it’s about to get real, very fast” vibe..and it does. When the blood-thirsty fish attacks the teens, and kills one of them, everyone panics and eventually throws their friend’s body into the water to distract the fish.
Little by little, the group begins to unravel, and when it becomes apparent that they should all work together, they instead do what most people would do in today’s day and age: look out for themselves. While the film could have easily just been reduced to kids getting picked off, one by one, it never feels like that kind of film, instead opting to be more akin to THE LORD OF THE FLIES than a creature feature. Where Fessenden succeeds the most with BENEATH, is his ability to create tension and not letting it die down. As the film goes on, each character begins to turn on each other completely, leading to some really unexpected twists that throw the typical horror film cliche’s for a loop. It’s almost as if the fish is a smaller danger to the teens than they are to each other. Throw in some interesting angles such as Johnny’s foreboding dream regarding the lake, aspiring filmmaker Zeke’s desire to film EVERYTHING via his Gopro camera on his wrist (fear not, fright fiends, this is not a found footage film), Zeke’s secret disdain for everyone’s lack of ambition, and an interesting love square (because a triangle would be too easy) going on, it quickly becomes obvious that while the fish does its best to dispatch the teens (and it does a good job at that), the real villain(s) in BENEATH would have to be the teens’ lack of loyalty to one another. It adds a really layered story that completely propels the film into stronger territory than it potentially could have ended up in.
While Fessenden has already proven himself as a jack of all trades, (acting in films such as YOU’RE NEXT and THE BATTERY, and has produced countless films such as THE INNKEEPERS, STAKELAND, and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL), it’s BENEATH that Larry really knocks it out of the park with. His previous directorial films like THE LAST WINTER and HABIT were entertaining, but with this film, Fessenden proves that his chops continually grow with time. Here’s looking forward to the next one.
BENEATH is now available to watch on VOD, Xbox, iTunes and more via Chiller Films.