×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beneath the Darkness

"Beneath the Darkness" is a malformed, would-be horror shocker with a deliriously deranged performance by Dennis Quaid, who unfortunately seems to be the only one onboard who thinks he's in a comedy.

With:
With: Dennis Quaid, Aimee Teegarden, Tony Oller, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser, Brett Cullen.

Helmer Martin Guigui seems to be doing what he can to keep the pressure off in “Beneath the Darkness,” a malformed, would-be horror shocker with a deliriously deranged performance by Dennis Quaid, who unfortunately seems to be the only one onboard who thinks he’s in a comedy. The generic title itself is an indication of what’s to come; if “Beneath the Darkness” were a blood donor, it would pass out. Only the pulse of the hardcore genre fan will quicken; limited theatrical exposure will be brief.

Shot in the same tiny Texas town as “The Tree of Life” (Smithville), Guigui’s film, with a screenplay by the late Bruce Wilkinson, fairly hollers “spoof” as it plays off various thriller conventions. These include a cast of attractive but dysfunctional teenagers who conform to type (the babe, the geek, the hunk, the thoughtful but rebellious loner dude), all of whom think the local mortician, Ely Vaughn (Quaid), is creepy. But it’s no joke: The film opens with Ely forcing a neighbor to dig his own grave, in which Ely promptly buries him alive.

The reasons are revealed only after much adolescent anguish. The aforementioned loner, Travis (Tony Oller), recently lost his sister and isn’t close to getting over it (everybody in town seems to have suffered the recent loss of a family member). All he has is his friends — beautiful Abby (Aimee Teegarden), braggadocious Brian (Stephen Lunsford) and dorky Danny (Devon Werkheiser), who stray from the usual high-school prankery when they spot strange shadows moving across the windows of Ely’s home. To them, the shadows look like ghosts. To the viewer, they look more like a guy dancing with his wife’s corpse. Guess who turns out to be right?

The idea of making the local undertaker a crazed killer is too obvious not to be amusing; the mortician is supposed to be the guy mistaken for a killer. Equally humorous is the idea of making that undertaker the former star quarterback for the local high-school team — and then casting Quaid, who has enjoyed a mini-career playing washed-up athletes. But the rhythm and pace of “Beneath the Darkness” are such that the viewer rarely gets engaged enough that the comic relief actually relieves anything.

It’s a strange town they all dwell in: Ely, who has a gift for sneaking up on the teenagers without their ever hearing him, encounters them in his home and murders one right in front of another; as he explains at one point, it’s Texas, where you can shoot burglars with impunity. But in this case, he commits the crime and denies it, and the way police subsequently treat his accuser seems to offer an unusually blatant justification of teen alienation, even if it never makes that particular point. As with much of what happens in “Beneath the Darkness,” the aud is left to draw its own conclusions about intent and inadvertence.

Production values aren’t much of an issue in a film that wears its low budget so baldly; during a high school football sequence, the movie, without shame or embarrassment, only fields one team.

Beneath the Darkness

Production: An Image Entertainment presentation of a Raincreek production in association with Sunset Pictures. Produced by Ronnie Clemmer. Executive producers, Bruce Wilkinson, Scott Mednick. Directed by Martin Guigui. Screenplay, Bruce Wilkinson.

Crew: Camera (color), Massimo Zeri; editor, Eric Potter; music, Geoff Zanelli; music supervisor, Mason Cooper; production designer, Chris Stull; set decorator, Bart Brown; sound (Dolby Digital) Benjamin Lowry; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Jussi Tegelmen; re-recording mixers, Tegelmen, Marti Humphrey; stunt coordinator, Charlie Parrish; visual effects, Subterranean VFX; assistant director, Alexander Yuchickov; casting, Donald Paul Pemrick, Dean E. Fronk. Reviewed at Magno Review 1, New York, Dec. 28, 2011. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Dennis Quaid, Aimee Teegarden, Tony Oller, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser, Brett Cullen.

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content