31 Days of Reviews: Beneath (2013)

A group of miners are trapped 600 feet underground after a collapse. Help won’t be arriving for 72 hours. There are precautions in place for situations like this, but someone or something in the mine has other plans.

I found this movie on Netflix streaming. It is the one about the miners, not the other 2013 film of the same name about a killer fish. I had a hard time finding information about this film instead of that one during my google searches.

Beneath is a film that reminds me of several others in a couple of different ways. The reason that I selected this movie was because the premise seemed like something that would freak me out. I’m pretty claustrophobic, so movies like The Descent, Sanctum, and hypothetically Beneath really get to me.

The movie starts off with the cliche’d “Based on a True Story” message. By this point, we all know that this message is a load of crap, but movies continue to use it anyway. I know I’ve used it in one of my short films, but in my defense, it really was based on true events. Beneath begins with a similar message that gives the background of the movie, making me brace myself for what I thought was going to be a found footage film. I will say that I liked how the beginning text highlighted the word “beneath” in red and kept that on screen while the rest faded away. I did think that was nice.

Following the true story message, Beneath does another thing which I find tiresome. It starts the movie at the end, says “We’ve got a survivor!” and then drops some text that says “4 days earlier” before actually introducing the movie you’ll be watching. I don’t know about everyone else, but I really don’t like when movies do that. I don’t like knowing right off the bat that only one person is going to survive, and nothing will change that. Occasionally, it can serve a movie well, but in the case of horror movies where we know a lot of people are going to die, I just find it unnecessary.

Now that I’ve gotten past my problems with the first minute of Beneath, I’ll actually start talking about the movie itself.

Interestingly enough, the majority of the characters in this movie are blue-collar, older men. This is pretty different for a scary movie. These types of movies generally focus on younger characters. It was a nice change. That being said, I had a hard time connecting with the characters because of the introduction scene. You’ve got all these experienced, working men in a bar, and then there’s this one young woman, the daughter of one of the miners who’s about to retire. The two groups are immediately juxtaposed, first by age and gender, and then by occupation. It is revealed that the woman is an environmental lawyer, and her education was paid for by her mining father. The two career paths are at odds with each other. There’s a bit of a spat about what mining is all about, and the woman decides that she wants to head down into the mines with them. You get some of the men complaining that it’s bad luck to bring a woman into the mines, but it is eventually settled that she will be joining them.

Isn’t that a massive liability? Could that even really happen? I had to pause and sit back to think about that for a bit before continuing. This started my problems with the story. It’s the usual contrived situation: On the last day before his retirement, an experienced miner takes his inexperienced daughter into the mines, and all hell breaks loose.

Aside from my distaste for the characters and the situation, I thought Beneath had some pretty solid acting. The character of the father (Jeff Fahey) is pretty decently compelling, and for a lawyer-turned-damsel-turned-survivor, the daughter Samantha (Kelly Noonan) isn’t so bad herself. There are some other decent performances as well throughout the movie, but those two characters are definitely the stand out roles.

In terms of scares, I was a little let down. I mentioned that Beneath had the ability to really freak me out with claustrophobic situations, but that was definitely underutilized throughout the movie. There was only a few instances where that was shown as an issue. For the most part, the movie relies on jump scares which are effective at the time, but not long lasting. The movie doesn’t get into any details that could mean anything supernatural until halfway through. It’s only after the halfway mark that the scares start to get more interesting.

Beneath is one of those movies where you have to decide for yourself if the events depicted were really supernatural or not. The movie leaves breadcrumbs throughout that could push it in either direction. While the miners do uncover a hidden shaft with remnants from a mining crew that was lost in the 1920s, they also are working on limited oxygen. Are the events in the film being caused by 1920s ghost miners or are they psychological, induced by the increasing panic of a surely doomed crew. I personally lean more onto the psychological side. It makes sense to me, but it’s up for you to decide.

There are some gory moments, mostly seen through injuries. Notable injuries will include broken bones visible through the skin, severed limbs, cutting skin off with a razor and several deaths by pick ax. In these instances, the effects aren’t bad at all. They’re actually quite good. I had to turn away.

The camera movement throughout the film is odd to me. It’s almost hard to explain. It’s as if the cinematography was influenced by found footage films, but the movie is still shot in the classic filming style. The angles are something you would definitely see in a found footage film; long lingering wide shots that don’t always have the speaking character in a prominent position and shots that walk with the characters instead of remaining stagnant, for example. At the same time, the characters don’t interact with the camera, and the camera is not a character in the movie, so it’s still in the classic style. Another aspect which I thought was odd for a classic film style was the very shaky camera work, another aspect that is prominent in found footage films.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about Beneath. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, but I will admit that I was expecting something a little different. I’ve seen both positive and negative reviews of the movie through other sites, so I believe it really is up to personal interpretation. If you are interested in viewing Beneath, it is currently available on Netflix streaming.

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