A few years ago, I was pumped to see that SciFi (now Syfy) had acquired the rights to the Return of the Living Dead franchise. I’ve always been a sucker for zombie movies, and the ROTLD franchise had the most intriguing twist to that genre: What if the zombies were only eating humans because it hurt to be dead? What if you couldn’t kill the zombie? So, I popped some popcorn, put my boy to bed early, and even got my wife to sit down and watch Necropolis and Rave 2 the Grave.
They were awful.
I’m not talking awful as in CGI was bad/acting was spotty/could see a boom microphone on occasion awful. I’m talking completely ignoring every rule set up in the franchise and doing a random crappy movie. There was one scene where the teenagers magically learned kung fu, fought the zombies in hand to hand combat, and then killed them by twisting their necks. I actually felt the need to apologize to my wife for making her watch them (and I’ve only done that one time before: when I drug her to see Pitch Black).
I have been wary of made for tv movies since. I was excited to see such movies as Ghoul and Steve Niles’ Remains being made, but both movies had major issues and just weren’t that good.
So, imagine my surprise when I turned on Chiller’s Beneath (2013) and be (gasp) entertained.
Beneath is about 6 recently graduated high school students that decide to spend the day hanging out on the lake. Unbeknownst to them, one of them knows that the legend of the lake is true (mythical man eating fish) and may just be setting them all up (Unfortunately, this is never really explored beyond the opening scene. In fact, this character is probably the “hero” of the group.). There’s the gold digging cheerleader “looking to get out of this town” (Kitty), the outcast (Johnny), the girl we all knew was a goner from the beginning (Deb), a jock (Simon), his younger, angrier brother (Matt), and the guy that films everything (Zeke).
The group gets out on the water, and the attacks start. The fish bumps the boat making the oars fall out, and immediately Deb is bitten. The fish stays close and does not allow the kids to paddle ashore. As she bleeds to death, the five remaining kids decide to toss her body overboard for the monster so that they can attempt an escape. As the fish feasts, they make it about 30 yards away.
This is where the second act begins.
The friends begin turning on each other. In order to save their own behinds, they begin voting others off the boat. Each person is given a chance to explain why he/she shouldn’t be sacrificed, and the group decides from there who stays and who goes. I found this part extremely fascinating as not only did most of them use the chance to belittle the others, but they also showed how naïve they were to the world ahead of them. It was typical high school mentality.
The other thing I loved about this movie is that the director did not use CGI. This was good, old fashioned puppeteering. It was very reminiscent of Jaws as we only saw the jaws of the fish on attacks, and we saw some tail action from afar. It looked cheap, but…real. At least it looked a lot more real than some of the CGI gorefests I’ve seen.
As the newer Return of the Living Dead‘s made me hate made-for-tv movies, the movie Beneath showed me that they could be interesting. I wouldn’t label this movie as “fun” as it shows that just beneath the surface, there’s some scary stuff.