I don’t recall how or where I stumbled across this one. I dunno if it popped up in association with the POV horror I’ve been delving into of late, or if I saw it mentioned on some movie list somewhere. Can’t imagine what that list might have been. I think I’d remember if it was something like 10 Crappy Creature Features or 10 Lame-ass Lake Monster Movies or 10 Killer Fish Movie That Should Have Been Thrown Back.
But no. I got no such warning.
To be fair, I didn’t expect much from Beneath in the first place, and it wasn’t completely, irredeemably terrible. Not completely. It is a Larry Fessenden project after all. The festivities begin with 6 yutes who have just graduated from high school, the rest of their lives stretching out before them like an endless vista full of idealistic hope and as yet untapped potential. As you may well suspect, by about the 15-minute mark you want them all to die.
So let’s meet our happy-go-lucky band. Stupid jock Matt, his brother Simon (smarter but always in Matt’s shadow), cute popular girl Kitty (also Matt’s girlfriend), Kitty’s friend Deb, annoying camera toting Zeke, and the full of quiet brooding intensity Johnny. They’ve come to Black Lake to celebrate. This involves taking a rowboat to the other side of the lake.
We get a suggestion in the opening that there may or may not be a lake monster as Johnny has a number of newspaper clippings of it. He also becomes pretty insistent that they just get across the lake as quickly as possible. Sadly, once they hit the midway point, Matt decides it’s time to go swimming, and Johnny’s protestations prove no match for Matt’s testosterone-addled big dick swingin’ energy.
Cue giant fish. It’s a big ‘un. I’ll give ’em that—about the length of the boat and sporting a mouth fulla big, nasty, pointy teeth, something that might be at home on an episode of River Monsters. Johnny, Zeke, and Simon beckon the others back to the boat. To the surprise of nobody, everyone makes it. However, the drop an oar in the process, and our sizeable piscine friend is just gettin’ warmed up.
Whilst tryin’ to retrieve this oar, Deb gets chomped and starts bleeding profusely, noting as they try to apply a tourniquet that, oops, her brachial artery has been severed (just a little somethin’ she musta picked up in that junior-year anatomy class). As they try to fend off their attacker, it manages to break one of the oars. Deb dies shortly thereafter. As they attempt to reach the shore, Jabberjaw snaps the other oar.
Quite the dilemma.
At this point, they reckon that if they use Deb’s body as a distraction, they can put some distance betwixt themselves and Muddy Mudskipper. This does not go to plan. It’s worth pointing out that, before they even leave shore, Johnny bumps into an elderly gentleman who’s working on a boat motor. This guy is a friend of Johnny’s grandfather and warns Johnny that he shouldn’t be taking these kids out on the lake. Johnny know this, but assures him that they’re not swimming.
My point is, none of these dingbats ever start screaming for help even after Ponyo rams the boat causing it to spring a decent sized leak. Clearly there’s no choice but to create another distraction, and they decide to take a vote. Kitty points out that Johnny knows more than he’s letting on since he tried to get her to wear some special necklace before they left. Zeke joins in and tries to convince Matt and Simon that Johnny should go.
Disgusted by his “friends,” Johnny takes matters into his own hands and dives into the water. Nemo follows. Johnny is never seen resurfacing and is assumed dead. From here the group dynamic breaks down with lightning speed—very Lord Of The Flies/The Thing/Belko Experiment. I won’t say anything further about the plot in the event that anybody wants to see how this all pans out.
Like I said, my expectations were reasonably set going in, so I wasn’t too bitterly disappointed. There’s some decent tension spattered throughout, and surprisingly little gore. Obviously there are some Piranha and Jaws-like moments, but there also some Creepshow 2/”The Raft” vibes in that these are all young people out on a lake that folks aren’t generally supposed to be out on.
The biggest shortcoming is probably The Big Bad itself which flops back and forth between fairly effective and utterly laughable. Admittedly, Fessenden seems more interested in the group getting ripped apart from the inside than the outside which is, in truth, more compelling. So yeah, not a bad fish story, but not exactly “you shoulda seen the one that got away” either.
BODIES- 6 onscreen
Streaming- Bravo Now, E! Now, Hulu, Shout!, Syfy Now
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube-