Friday, October 4, 2013

Chiller's 'Beneath' Love Child Of Slasher And Monster Flicks

BY SHEILA McNAIR


Tonight on Chiller, cult horror fave Larry Fessenden ("Wendigo," "The Last Winter") directs Chiller’s "Beneath" -- arguably the love child of "Friday the 13th" and "Piranha 3D" -- where six high school grads head to a lake where they hope to party and blow off some steam.

The trip seems to be off to a good start, other than the lack of cellular service at the lake. So this is takes place in present day, and girl-next-door (Bonnie Dennison) Kitty states, "But how will we tweet about our adventure?" Things get tricky when a mysterious stranger played by Mark Margolis ("Breaking Bad") warns Johnny (Daniel Zovatto, tortured soul and organizer of the trip) to stay away from the water. Johnny, thinking they’re only going to cross the lake and get to the island to start partying, doesn’t heed the advice.

Halfway to the island, the gang wants to take a break to swim. Johnny is sweating at this point, eyeing the water and asking his friends to hurry along. Among his friends is a nerdy filmmaker, Zeke (Griffin Newman), who insists on filming everything through his watch camera at all times. Also along for the soon-to-be-turbulent ride are Kitty, Kitty’s brawny boyfriend Matt (Chris Conroy) and his equally brawny brother Simon (Jonny Orsini) and Kitty’s childhood friend Deb (Mackenzie Rosman). Yeah, they're all familiar horror trope characters.

After a few tense minutes on the water the boat begins to rock -- literally -- and Johnny calls his friends back to the boat so they can resume their journey to the island. That’s when you see it, a giant man-eating Piranha and he looks ready to kill.

Death comes swiftly when a girl bleeds out from a bite to the arm while trying to rescue an oar dropped in the water so the boat can escape. Eventually both oars are lost and the monstrous piranha cracks the side of the boat, adding urgency and panic to the atmosphere as the gang struggles to paddle back to shore without being bitten. Instead of a proper burial for the first victim the group decides to throw the corpse of their dead friend into the water as a diversion. Survival is key and they will do just about anything to live -- even if that means throwing someone else under the bus (or in this case, boat). The teens fight for survival in their slowly sinking boat by dictating who should sacrifice themselves for the ensured survival of the rest of the group.

In the film, Fessenden plays off of the modern American teen’s jaded attitudes toward violence and horror. Instead of pulling together in times of panic and adversity, these teens are only looking out for number one. Who is going to lead the most meaningful life? Who has the most terrible secrets? Who deserves to stay on the boat, and who deserves to die?

So is "Beneath" worth watching? Are you home tonight and want to check out another take on the teen slasher/monster flick? If so, then yes. The film could have built out a stronger mythology (which it does, sort of, on the Chiller website). But overall, it doesn't break new ground, and Fessenden has delivered stronger work, but it is a working man's Chiller fare. It does the job but doesn't necessarily satisfy any cravings.

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