Director: Martin Guigui (Cattle Call, 2 Flats)
Screenplay: Bruce Wilkinson
Producer: Ronnie D. Clemmer
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 96 min.
For the most part, it’s interesting seeing actors try new things so when I saw charming leading man Dennis Quaid in a trailer for a thriller where he plays the bad guy, I was instantly on board.
Beneath the Darkness opens with a promising scene in which Quaid’s character approaches an apparently random man jogging (in the middle of the night no less) and kills him. Fast forward to years and we learn that Quaid is Ely, the mortician of a sleepy little town. The kids think he’s weird and that his old house is haunted, an idea that is cemented when a group of friends spy what they think are ghosts in the window of Ely’s well appointed home.
It’s not too difficult to figure out what happens next. The kids plan a break-in to check things out, things go wrong, they narrowly escape but not before seeing something really bizarre. Trying to prove to everyone that Ely is the creepy man they always knew him to be, they regroup and plan a second entry only to find themselves face-to-face with the crazy creepy man whose job is to take care of the town’s dead.
Oh yeah, and along the way we find out why Ely killed the midnight jogger.
These types of thrillers are a dime a dozen and though Quaid as a bad guy did get my attention and likely will draw the eye of a few curious onlookers, Beneath the Darkness doesn’t manage to use that bit of upper hand to its advantage. Quaid with crazy hair and a shit-eating grin is scary as all hell but his scenes are few and far between as first time screenwriter Bruce Wilkinson chooses to focus most of the story on building a romantic relationship between two of the teen characters. To their credit, both Tony Oller as Travis and Aimee Teegarden as Abby are likable but their characters are uninteresting and their teen romance lacks spark.
It doesn’t help that Beneath the Darkness lacks “thrills.” The story plots along the expected route but the bad guy is never really scary. Yeah, he kills a guy in the opening scene and he can be a bit short and even has a few moments terror, but they don’t permeate through the story to build any tension and as soon as Quaid is out of the frame, he’s forgotten. No looming feeling of terror here.
The concept of Dennis Quaid as a bad guy is definitely appealing but you need more than that to tell an effective story and Beneath the Darkness just doesn’t have it. The story is bland, the characters are bland and the execution leaves much to be desired and as good as a few of Quaid’s moments are, they’re simply not enough to recommend this forgettable little flick.
Watching this, I was reminded of how awesome Mr. Brooks was and how this doensn’t come anywhere near it.
DVD Extras: A two and a half minute compilation of behind the scenes footage and the film’s trailer.
Click “play” to see the trailer: