Beneath (Blu-ray Review)

BeneathWhile Scream Factory likes to boast “Rate R For Retro” as a tagline, once in a while they do offer up a piece of modern horror to shake things up.  This year, so far, they already have four of them slated for release, three of those leading up to summer.  The first of the these 2014 modern outputs is Larry Fassenden’s Beneath.  I had heard a pretty solid buzz about this one from horror circles around the web, but it didn’t play anywhere near me (it’s a very small film), so I was patiently awaiting it on the home format somehow.  I kind of kept in the dark, aside from knowing it was a giant fish movie.  To my pleasant surprise, Scream Factory got their paws on it and made it a part of their 2014 slate.  Scream Factory and I tend to have a lot of the same tastes, so when they select a modern title for release it instantly grabs my attention and has me pretty excited to check the title out.

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Six youthful friends go on a trip to Black Lake together for a weekend of fun.  It seems all the guys seem to have an eye on and a thing for Kitty, Matt’s girlfriend who has aspirations of someday becoming some sort of actress/singer.  Johnny doesn’t want them to go into the Black Lake, because he knows its dirty little secret.  It’s the home for a gigantic fish that will eat them whole.  The group disregards Johnny’s warning and takes to the lake, soon finding themselves trapped and being kept in check by the giant aquatic people-eating machine.  Panic and survival instinct kick in and everyone in the group’s true colors begin to show as they hope to survive and make it to shore at almost any cost necessary.

I’m not going to lie, the opening of this film had me really worried that I was about to set out on some low budget horror film that just did not want to be liked.  However, once it became clear what the film actually was and revealed that it was indeed a comedy it started really working and actually becoming quite good.  We’re pretty much following six complete douchebags on this Black Lake voyage, so I’m really glad that the film took a tone that offered up plenty of humor with both genuine laughs and darkly comic approach.  I kept getting a kick out of every time the group decided to vote one another off the boat and all the vile accusations and such they would throw at each other.  What started out as a group of friends turns into an ugly affair of wondering if these people liked each other in the first place.

The film is a total throwback to the type of B-cinema that was inspired by Jaws back in the 70s, like Piranha and whathaveyou.  Director Larry Fassenden goes al in with that, too as he opts to use only practical effects in the film (except in small places, like the blinking of the fish’s eye).  Fassenden obviously loves me, because once I noticed this I got far more interested in this movie.  This is an honest to god, built from scratch, animatronic fish attacking this obnoxious cast of teens.  There a many people physically working hard underwater and above to make this thing work.  The blood and gashes and make-up are all nice and practical too.  Too many of these low budget affairs nowadays have that crummy, super obvious blood littering the screen.

The film sports pretty much a bunch of newer faces.  But if you’ve gotta have someone recognizable in the film, its got a couple that some may recognize.  First off, its got everybody’s favorite creepy bell poking former hitman Mark Margolis in glorified cameo role as that harbinger of doom character.  It also sports a Seventh Heaven alumnus in that of Mackenzie Rosman.  The rest of the cast were people I wasn’t familiar with.  Most of them were at least able to play convincible enough to the level of the material presented.  I’m not sure if anybody is really going to take off from this, but they were decent enough to get you to laugh at them and enjoy watching them all turn on each other and spew spiteful venom around.

Beneath is a throwback piece to the “big killer fish” cult cinema done with modern sensibilities instead of trying to grindhouse it up as to give an instant excuse or spoon-fed reasoning for the film’s tone and nature.  It’s a treat to see an actual “living breathing” practical effects creature, fully constructed from the ground up, as we rarely get to see that kind of beast anymore.  The film is darkly comic and rewards its audience for having to hang with such despicable characters by having them ruthlessly turn on each other and embrace the inner douche you thought they were.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: This was a super clear transfer.  Its incredibly impressive as 98% of this film takes place embodied by water and it looks fluent and crystal clear throughout.  It’s a sharp, clean picture that is very lifelike.

DepthBeneath is a great example of providing depth in a high definition picture.  There are many instances of having either the fish or the main boat set in comparison to something in the foreground.

Black Levels:  Black levels are good. The film gets a little too dark in its final scene and it’s hard to make some stuff out, but I believe that may be by intention.  I didn’t notice much if any crushing.

Color Reproduction:  While the film focuses on a dingy outdoors-y lake, the colors are well saturated and bold.  There was a moment where a purple towel was covering a dead body and it looked absolutely gorgeous.  There was incredibly texture and the coloring just lifted the thing right out of the screen.

Flesh Tones:  Fleshtones were solid and consistent.  Everybody appeared to be pretty white with no real signs of tan.  Facial texture and such was light, but you could easily make out wetness and drips of water on their faces.

Noise/Artifacts: There were no noticeable instances of noise or artifacts on this transfer.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The volume on the 5.1 track was at a low setting and I had to crank my receiver much more than normal.  The audio does present a good sense of place and does wonderfully with distance and proximity in terms for sound and vocals.

Low Frequency Extension:  There was a little but not much of a full on boost from the subwoofer.  With a boat getting bumped and giant fish attacks, I would have enjoyed more than a pedestrian approach.

Surround Sound Presentation: This felt like a very good reproduction of making a viewer feel as if they were in the middle of it all.  The track makes excellent use of the ambient noise with splashes and such captivating you in the lake and the full on stereo while in the SUV at the beginning.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue was good, clean and very much of its environment.  It sounded genuinely relevant to the film’s setting.

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In addition to the Blu-ray, it comes with a digital copy and an insert featuring alternate cover artwork.  These actually proved to be some rather fun and engaging extras well worth your time and enhancing the experience of the film itself.  Also, oddly, there is a ‘Play All’ function for the entire extras section.

Audio Commentary With Director Larry Fassenden And Sound Designer Graham Reznick – As expected, the two go over the film with many anecdotes about production and working with a giant fish.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:39)

A Look Behind Beneath: Making “The Fish Movie” (HD, 1:00:00) – A pretty comprehensive and education production diary on shooting this movie.  It follows it from building the fish to casting to shooting to recording the soundtrack.  It’s really awesome to see a small production like this at work.

Poster/Premiere (HD, 2:06) – A cool little clip of a guy putting the one-sheets to press while intermixing red carpet footage.

From The Web

  • What The Zeke? (HD, 18:33) – Initially I though this was gonna be some excessive garbage on the disc, but it turns out this footage from Zeke’s camera actually adds to your experience with the movie, be it character depth, seeing jokes come to light and answering some questions in the film  I actually highly recommend you see this if any of the bonus material.
  • What’s In Black Lake (HD, 11:42) – Director Larry Fassenden plays a conspiracy theorist doing video blogging about the mysteries of Black Lake.

Fassenden On Jaws (HD, 17:07) – The director once made a Siskel & Ebert At The Movies type parody with him and another person reviewing a remake of Jaws.  The movie within the movie contained stop motion using models and stuff.  Here, the director gives us a tour of all the stuff used in that production as he still has it.

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Larry Fassenden’s Beneath comes to you from Scream Factory with a great video presentation with a solid audio accompaniment.  There is quite the gamut here of extras and the most Scream Factory has ever supplied a modern title with.  It’s a fun little comedy about teens getting nasty with each other and a giant fish munching on them one by one.  If you’ve been a fan of this movie, you must own this as its been given quite a handsome treatment.  It’s a very solid movie that won’t steer you wrong in terms of original modern horror entertainment.  Oh, and did I mention this thing uses all practical effects!!!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Beneath (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    It looks like a good time.
    Surprised to see that girthy doc.