Don’t be a dick, don’t be a nerd, don’t be female and don’t cheat on your partner. Oh and one more thing; don’t go in the water. Those are pretty much the morals in Larry Fassenden’s teen horror/thriller Beneath, so if you want to survive an attack by a gigantic bug eyed fish then please take note.
The fish has large bug eyes and a set of crooked teeth that don’t look like they could bite through an egg sandwich, but despite all that it doesn’t look entirely fake.
Six teenagers who have just graduated high school head out across a private lake to party on the other side of the shore. Johnny (Daniel Zovatto) knows the dangers but chooses not to tell his mates that there’s a fuck off massive fish in the water and instead not-so-subtly tries to force his high school crush Kitty (Bonnie Dennison) to wear a necklace to ‘protect’ her (before you laugh, the necklace actually does work). Of course things go awry when the group refuses to heed Johnny’s advice not to go in the water.
You would be forgiven for expecting a stupid looking CGI fish but actually it’s quite cleverly done. We don’t see an awful lot of the fish and it’s kept relatively realistic. It does have large bug eyes and a set of crooked teeth that don’t look like they could bite through an egg sandwich let alone a group of teenagers, but despite all that it doesn’t look entirely fake and spends the majority of the time under the water. Any good monster movie keeps sightings of the monster to a minimum, because generally the moment we see the threat (especially when that threat looks suspiciously rubbery) the film becomes a joke, Beneath takes this on board (see what I did there!) and maintains an air of mystery around the brutish vertebrate.
The first to die is Deb (MacKenzie Rosman) who suffers a nasty fish bite to the arm that severs an artery. The team make no effort to revive her, nor do they particularly even consider the possibility of trying to help her which seems somewhat strange, instead they decide to toss her overboard as fish bait. Which brings me to the rule of don’t be female. Much like society in general, when Matt finds out that Kitty has been cheating on him with his brother (who’s also on the boat) it’s immediately her fault; she’s a slut, his brother on the other hand gets little blame at all and eventually the pair vote to chuck Kitty into the water as a last ditch attempt to distract the fish and paddle to shore. Not once do we hear Matt say anything along the lines of ‘hey, asshole, you slept with my girlfriend!’. Without giving too much away, there’s some man on woman violence and the whole two strapping guys ganging up on the weak little blonde girl and throwing her overboard thing could perhaps raise a few hackles in the realm of feminism (you have been warned!) However, the alpha male tendencies of the two brothers works well. I’ll leave you to find out who does or doesn’t survive (if you do choose to watch the film).
The entire film takes place on the tiny boat, so it’s important that the characters are well written and of course well acted. While they are very stereotypical representations, we can relate to each member of the group on some level. The film does become quite intense if you ignore the fact that whenever they distract the fish and paddle they seem to get no closer to the shore. At all times they’re probably around 60 metres from the shore, which surrounds them in all directions, and they never seem to get any closer. Of course there wouldn’t be a film if they did get back to the shore before the fish could eat them, but their close proximity to safety and their apparent ability to paddle and not go anywhere becomes more than a little contrived.
Beneath is an enjoyable piece of entertainment. It’s harmless, tense and good fun. The fish is refreshingly not laughable, like a lot of rubbery monsters in these kinds of films, and it’s not mindless sexploitation like Piranha ‘3DD’ (Jeez, could they have made it any more obvious if they’d tried?!) Not a bad film, but by no means a great one.