Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Beneath: Where’s that Canary When They Need It?
a soon-to-be retired coalminer, George Marsh’s way of life is slowing dying. So
is he, but maybe not as slowly as he assumes. Naturally, there is an epic
cave-in on his last day in the mine, but there might be more pressing concerns
for his stranded party than their dwindling oxygen supply in Ben Ketai’s Beneath (trailer here), which opens this
Friday at the IFC Center.
celebrate his retirement, Marsh’s daughter Samantha has returned from New York
to attend his send-off. Perhaps she shouldn’t have. True, her father’s lungs
are as black as, well coal, but he resents being pressured into retirement. After
all, he never missed a day’s work in the thirty-one years since the mine
opened. He also takes her environmental law practice as a not so subtle rebuke.
Despite her new life, she can still relate to the guys relatively well,
particularly her former high school sweetheart. She tries to convince them, she
is really in their corner. It is the corporations she is against. However, they
seem to think they wouldn’t have jobs without the mining company. As the
discussion gets heated, she accepts a dare to come down with them the next
would be her father’s last day on the job, which pretty much guarantees some
sort of movie disaster. Add in his fish-out-of-water daughter and a rookie with
only a few weeks experience into the mix and you have the makings of a perfect
subterranean storm. Indeed, something duly goes drastically wrong. As Ketai’s
primary characters hunker down in the shelter awaiting rescue, strange things
start to happening, risking their survival.
it comes to genre films set within mine shafts, Beneath leaves Abandoned Mine
in the dust. Ketai certainly creates a claustrophobic mood, but the real
strength of the film is his sympathetic grasp of the working class environment.
Never condescending, Beneath conveys
the pride of the miners, derived in no small measure from the dangerous
conditions they face each day. Yet, the film is almost too subtle presenting
the question whether supernatural forces are plaguing the survivors or it is a
case of rampant oxygen-deprived psychosis.
the film also focuses on the wrong Marsh, following Samantha’s POV and largely sidelining
the perennially under-rated Jeff Fahey, as the grizzled George. Kelly Noonan is
perfectly fine as the rebellious daughter, but her perspective is pretty
standard issue woman-in-horror-movie-jeopardy stuff. Amongst the supporting
miners, Brent Briscoe definitely stands out as Marsh’s jovial buddy, Mundy. Witchblade’s Eric Etebari also glowers
memorably as the uptight, chauvinistic Masek.
question, Beneath is one of the
moodiest films acquired by IFC Midnight. While it is certainly a genre film, it
never comes across as exploitative. Nevertheless, it leaves an intriguing
side-plot regarding a similar 1920’s disaster frustratingly under-developed and
closes with the clichéd eye-roller of a denouement. Better than the gruesome
poster would lead you to expect, Beneath is
recommended for those who horror films that cross-over category labels. It
opens this Friday night (7/25) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Horror Movies, Jeff Fahey