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RATED R (Amazon says unrated, the DVD says R)
RUNNING TIME 101 minutes
• SXSW Interview
A young couple take refuge in a roadside motel. Soon the couple has crossed paths with a mysterious desk clerk and his sultry blond wife as well as a stranger who is somehow privy to their most closely guarded secrets.
Directed by Chad Feehan Starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Josh Stewart, Chris Browning and Angela Featherstone
A modern day attempt to create a dark, gritty love story in the style of a Twilight Zone episode.
Beneath the Dark is a movie that strives to be much bigger than it actually is. The problem is that with a limited budget and some pacing concerns at the beginning, I fear most won’t stick through it long enough to find an ok movie at the center.
Jamie Lynn Sigler and Josh Stewart star in this intriguing attempt at a semi-modern day Twilight Zone. I don’t know why she hasn’t found a new agent, as I have always liked her acting. She’s not an award winner by any stretch, but she definitely knows how to raise her voice in a way that never loses control, has mesmerizing eyes that display a range of emotions and let’s face it, she’s not too hard to look at. Meadow Soprano has grown up and once again trying to stretch outside the reach of HBO, The Sopranos and Entourage.
Sigler is matched up with her boyfriend, played by Josh Stewart, who has had various runs on show like Criminal Minds, No Ordinary Family, Dirt and the movie I know him for, The Collector. He is main part of this strange tale, and it’s his secret we are waiting to find out..
The story begins with our couple driving in the middle of a desert (like most the Twilight Zone episodes I remember) where our couple almost wrecks their car. After that, Adrienne (Sigler) suggests that she is too horny to continue through the night without first finding a hotel.
The presentation before the couple reaches the hotel has a very amateur feel to it, to the point where I almost gave up on it. To me it seemed very much like inexperienced direction where cheap dialogue carried the scene, and when an action moment occurred, it was very rushed to get to the resolution. There is even a scene early where two people watch a character filmed on a security camera, even though we view it through shoulder mounted single camera following every move. Most experienced directors will at least show some stationary footage. This scene could have easily used two shots presented as low end cameras to make you feel connected to the characters watching the footage.
The hotel didn’t immediately improve things as we meet the kind of creepy attendant, Frank, played by Chris Browning. I didn’t like his acting from the first minute. We actually see him in a different setting also, where he looks like a pale imitation of Josh Brolin in No Country For Old Men. He surely didn’t have the same talent as Brolin, and did not carry his role very well. In many scenes, where he was supposed to present himself as a former security guard with some social issues, he appeared to be more Paul Blart than Unbreakable’s David Dunn.
The setting barely leaves the hotel and the cast is relatively small. I had a feeling I had seen most of the characters before in other films, like a Morgan Freeman from Bruce Almighty, Elizabeth Shue from Leaving Las Vegas and the aforementioned Josh Brolin.
Without spoiling the plot too much, we are quickly thrown into some religious and spiritual undertones. We meet a gentleman who declares himself as the “Son of God” and our protagonist even says to him “I don’t believe in the Devil, and I sure as hell don’t dance”. I really think that should have been the tagline. The movie never states it’s time setting, and I am to assume it is the late 90s due to the continuous use of VCRs in many scenes, the dress and some of the vehicles.
The film has a lot of twists and turns, most somewhat predictable, but even though you may guess where it is going a lot sooner, you get to the payoff. The last half hour of Beneath the Dark is entertaining and actually a pretty good semi thriller. Getting there is the battle, and if you can figure where it’s going quickly, may not be worth your time
After the initial establishment as semi-nymphomaniac, we find out that Jamie Lynn Sigler doesn’t change from a t-shirt and shorts for most of the film, so if you were expecting a Havoc or Embrace of the Vampire, look elsewhere. In fact the R rating is mostly due to language, with a small amount of fraternity party mayhem thrown in, and little to almost no gore. The packaging would leave you to believe that the film is a grainy and possibly violent horror film, while this is much more of an old fashion Twilight Zone, including the amount of violence.
The DVD includes the original trailer and an interview that was conducted at SXSW. The menus don’t have sound which left me a little confused as whether it was the DVD or something wrong with my HDMI output.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars