There’s no doubt about it — between recently-released titles such as Abandoned Mine, As Above, So Below, Mine Games, and the flick we’re here to take a look at today, director Ben Ketai’s 2013 effort Beneath, underground is the place to be in horror right now. You’d think that the success, both critical and commercial, of The Descent back in 2005 would have spawned a legion of imitators at the time, but for some reason it didn’t happen until 8 or 9 years later. Go figure.
The natural question now is — was it worth the wait? I guess that all depends on how naturally claustrophobic you are.
To be sure, what Ketai has crafted here is far from a masterpiece, but at times it is surprisingly effective, provided that tight, confined spaces frighten you as much as they do me. It takes an awfully long time for the tension to get going, though, as this story, which proclaims itself to be “based on true events” (which “true events,” specifically, are never mentioned, and let’s face it — the sad, and actual, truth is that mines have been collapsing on people for a long time now and thus any number of tragic disasters could suffice as being the “basis” for the screenplay here) throws out a few real whoppers in terms of the straining your suspension of disbelief before kicking things up a notch, the biggest of which is that last-day-on-the-job (and, by the look of it, Black Lung sufferer) pit supervisor George Marsh (Jeff Fahey, one of the few recognizable faces among a cast of largely unknowns) would consent to let his grown daughter, Sam (Kelly Noonan, who’s certainly easy on the eyes but struggles mightily on the acting front in what is essentially the film’s lead role) accompany him to work on his final shift, and that his bosses would agree to such a proposition given that she’s an environmental lawyer who’s probably looking for any number of health and safety violations to slap them with.
In any case, down she goes with the crew, right after a previously-undiscovered section of the mine is found (what a coincidence), the roof collapses, and everybody’s fucked. The air starts running low, everybody starts hallucinating — or maybe not, as questions begin to arise as to how much of what they’re seeing is real or imagined.
The production values here go a long way toward helping the movie establish a reasonably high level of atmosphere and frankly are called upon to do most of the heavy lifting since, ya know, credibility and plausibility are out the window from the outset, and I give Ketai props for successfully evoking much of the feeling of what it must be like to be trapped in a cave-in with the clock ticking against you in spite of the fact that there’s no way his central character would, or could, ever find herself in such a situation in the first place. I’ve always suffered from recurring nightmares of being buried alive and slowly suffocating to death(file that under WTMI, as the kids would say), so if concepts like that scare the shit out of you at a core level (welcome to the club, glad to meet you), chances are you’ll agree that Beneath is, at least, reasonably successful in terms of achieving its fundamental goals.
Anyway, if you’re so inclined, Ketai’s modestly-budgeted number is now available via Netflix instant streaming (which is how I saw it, hence no DVD/Blu-ray specs included in this review) and if sounds like your cup full of coal dust, then hey, it probably will be.