UK Release Date: 20th April 2015
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Ben Ketai
Writer: Patrick Doody, Chris Valenziano
Starring: Kelly Noonan, Joey Kern, Jeff Fahey, Mark L Young, Brent Briscoe, Eric Etebari, David Shackelford
Synopsis: A group of coal miners are driven to madness when they are trapped deep within their treacherous workplace.
Claustrophobic environments have been well played out in the recent canon of horror cinema. Whether it’s an unexplored cave (The Descent), the Paris catacombs (As Above, So Below) or the inside of an Egyptian tomb (The Pyramid), tight spaces are a sure-fire recipe for scares. Ben Ketai’s feature debut, Beneath, takes the action to a collapsed coal mine.
Appearing on the festival circuit in 2013 and in American cinemas last year, Beneath can finally be seen by British eyes courtesy of this DVD release from Arrow Films.
Environmental lawyer Samantha (Kelly Noonan) visits her father (Jeff Fahey) on the eve of his last day as a coal miner. After calling out co-worker Randy (Joey Kern) on his bravado, Samatha agrees to accompany the team on their descent the next day. When a piece of machinery causes their tunnel to collapse, the team must battle against their own fears, the diminishing air supply and even each other.
| "Anything goes wrong down there, you get her out."
Despite its well-worn premise and inexperienced director, Beneath is an efficient horror film. It benefits from nicely drawn central characters and some solid scare choreography. No trope goes unused and originality is in very short supply, but if the goal of horror is to chill the blood, then the film is a success.
Kelly Noonan brings a surprising amount of fun to her central role, aided by the gravitas of Jeff Fahey as her grizzled, veteran father. Noonan’s relationship with Chris Pratt-a-like Joey Kern is underplayed by both performers to great effect, never overriding the horror narrative. The supporting players are less strong, particularly in the case of US Inbetweeners star Mark L Young, but Beneath’s central conceit thankfully has them picked off sooner rather than later.
It’s refreshing that Beneath never feels the need to provide a concrete explanation for what occurs. Right up until the end, it’s content to provide reasonable evidence for both a supernatural and psychological explanation. As long as he can terrify his audience, director Ketai isn’t too concerned with dealing in absolutes of plot.
| "There’s something in the air."
The film is very nice to look at, with Ketai giving an assured vision that ekes plenty of scares from the premise. Some of the jumps are incredibly well-executed, even though many are taken frame-by-frame from the playbooks of the horror filmmakers of times gone by. Beneath is far from original, but that doesn’t matter when it has your stomach tied up in knots.
Extras are sadly rather sparse, including only two brief behind-the-scenes featurettes and a slightly bizarre "bonus clip", which is basically just a vehicle for its final jump scare.
Pop or Poop?
Despite its startling lack of originality, Beneath is an impressively claustrophobic horror film from debutant director Ben Ketai.
Kelly Noonan and Joey Kern excel in their main roles, acting mediocre supporting performers off the screen even as the chaos ramps up in its final third.
Scares are ripped from the storyboards of its influences, but Ketai gives the film real verve and genuine chills.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Beneath is available on DVD from today courtesy of Arrow Films.