Friday, November 28, 2014

The Device (2014) : Indie Sci-Fi Packs An Unsettling Punch

I love indie horror.  It's not that I don't enjoy mainstream films as well, because I do.  But give me a good indie film the likes of Absentia, The Pact, Lake Mungo, or The Invoking (from the same writer/director team as this film), and I'm really in my element.  Indie horror evokes a certain bare-bones feel that a big Hollywood production just can't emulate.  So when I was asked to take a look at the newest offering from The October People, The Device, I happily agreed.

Co-written by Jeremy Berg and John Portanova and blending elements of sci-fi, horror and let's face it, family drama, director Berg's The Device moves away from conventional films in several directions.  I'm not an especially big sci-fi fan, but when it's done right I enjoy the hell out of it and count Alien (1979), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and 2009's Moon as three of my most favorite films, any genre.  I also really enjoyed the recent Dark Skies (2013) and am one of the biggest fans of The X-Files perhaps ever. So though I don't exclusively seek out science fiction, I do love sci-fi done well.

The Device teases us with the possibility of aliens, but doesn't base the film on the search for extraterrestrials like so many films before it.  It first wounds our emotions and forces us to care about the people involved in the story, instead of just throwing some little green men our way.  We come to have a vested interest in who may be getting hurt by what is going on, instead of trying to find out where they came from and what they want.  This change-up in format and technique is welcome and leads to a more personal film, despite the scares.

Abby (Angela DiMarco) and her fiance Calvin (David S. Hogan) are picking up Abby's sister Rebecca (Kate Alden) after the death of their mother.  The two women are set to release their mother's ashes at a family cabin by a lake.  The sisters haven't seen much of each other and it's obvious the duo has baggage, both from their own relationship and the one they shared with their mother. We learn Rebecca had been kidnapped and apparently assaulted by an ex-boyfriend when she was young while at the cabin, so the place understandably has bad memories for her. But Abby wants to try to help Rebecca push past those memories- to put them behind her.  Both sisters are trying to get back to a semblance of normalcy, and think this weekend of closure will help.

After dispersing the ashes into the lake, Rebecca heads off into the woods with Abby anxiously following after her. They find what looks to be a plane wreckage of some sort and Abby then discovers a sphere-like black orb and shows it to Rebecca, who immediately says they need to go back to the cabin and leave the wreckage alone. Something sharp on the sphere jags Abby, making her hand bleed. When she looks up, Rebecca passes out. Back at the cabin with Rebecca safely in bed, Calvin and Abby discuss the device, wondering what it is for and where it came from. Calvin's mind focuses on money, and he can't wait to see what it could be worth.

When Rebecca discovers that the device is in the cabin, she freaks out and starts saying they should not have brought it back with them and that she wants to go home.  Calvin and Abby privately discuss how they can help Rebecca face her demons and move on, as a family.  But that night Abby has a vivid yet eerie dream in which Rebecca warns her they must leave the cabin, disturbing her enough that the next morning they pack up and head home.

Settling into her sister's home becomes a problem when Rebecca discovers that Calvin has brought the strange device home from the cabin.  Arguments ensue about what the device is and how dangerous it may be, and as freaked out as Rebecca is you begin to wonder if she has seen something similar before, and we start thinking there is more to her "kidnapping" than meets the eye.  When Abby receives a call from their mother's sister Linda, it's a heated argument, with their aunt more than just a little pissed that they've been up at the cabin.  She is entirely pissed that Abby took Rebecca there and tells her to send her home on the first bus back to Louisville, which Abby blatantly ignores.

Abby continues to have disturbing dreams at night, with each one becoming more and more upsetting.  She feels certain an alien-like presence is in the room with her,  watching her...wanting something.  She becomes convinced that the device has something to do with it, and begs Calvin to get rid of it.  But Calvin is allowing himself to be completely obsessed with the orb and its powers.  His personality begins changing the more he handles it, and he even starts having conversations with it - or whomever is controlling it.  Rebecca, seeing what is going on around her escalating to dangerous proportions, finally comes forward and explains that it wasn't her boyfriend Chuck that abducted and assaulted her all those years ago....

As in Berg's last film, The Invoking, he has a great talent of evoking a really unsettling vibe just by showing dark woods, empty fields, strange lights, serene lakes.  The tall trees become sinister, a slight breeze foreboding. His characters have interesting back stories and face real-life problems that end up intermingling with whatever type of horror they are facing.  It's not a fast-paced film, and in fact may be too slow for action-hounds who like their sci-fi a little more Aliens than Moon.  But it will get under your skin if you let it.  Which let's face it, we want it to be an unnerving peek into a world we don't understand, just like all other sci-fi strains to do.

The actors in The Device are totally capable and come off as people you would be friends or neighbors with, in particular the two female leads.  They are quite convincing as sisters trying to reconnect and more importantly deal with a long ago trauma that led to their separation.  Their angst about this crossroad in their relationship is one of the best parts of the movie.

Special effects here are minimal, but seeing an alien shrouded in a misty fog enhances the age-old rule of what you can't see is scarier than what is right in front of you.  Sometimes just a quick glance out of the corner of their eye - did they just see something? - is more terrifying than witnessing something the eye is meant to see head on.  This movie is certainly more about relationships and facing truths than it is about alien abductions.  But the building tension of not knowing just what is "out there" leads perfectly into the discovery of what they really do need to be afraid of.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the eerie score by Joseph Molner.  It's absolute perfection in it's subtlety, and I'd love to get my hands on it.

The Device is yet another solid film from The October People, combining unnerving sci-fi elements with a  depth of characters you will actually care about when they face the dreadful circumstances thrown at them for not following their gut instincts and turning back, deciding instead to pry into worlds unknown, with a devastating outcome.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fusions Of Fright: The Parlor Trick

 ~by Marie Robinson

Join us again for another round of Fusions of Fright, Fascination With Fear’s monthly music article!

No artist is ever pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.

(album cover)
This poem by Martha Graham is the inspiration for the album, A Blessed Unrest by The Parlour Trick. The Parlour Trick is a project that is made from the combined efforts of Meredith Yayanos and Dan Cantrell who are both accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalists. They began collaborating on the album in 2009 in Oakland, California and in 2012, after producing enough for a record, began a Kickstarter for A Blessed Unrest. Since meeting their goal the record has been made available in digital, CD and vinyl formats, although all the vinyl pressings have sadly sold out.

A Blessed Unrest is a mostly instrumental album that aims to capture the tone of Victorian spiritualism, among other things. The album was inspired by Margaret Yayanos’ interest with Victorianism and its darker aspects, such as its attitude towards death and the afterlife and its ideas concerning “female hysteria”. An excerpt from their website says that, “Many of the pieces composed or co-composed by Yayanos are conscious riffs off (t)rapping of Spiritualism and lingering concepts of the “monstrous feminine”.

Photo by Audrey Penven
While the songs all certainly fit together, there are varying styles throughout the album. “Half Sick of Shadows”, “Mare Desiderii”, and “Planchette” are all piano-driven. The first is a single, if the album were to properly have one, and a music video was recorded for it featuring dancer Rachel Brice. “Half Sick of Shadows” may be my favorite track, though it isn’t easy to pick one. It sounds as if it should be played in—well—a parlour, with a crackling fire in the hearth and some quiet evil descending. It could easily fit into some supernatural period-piece film, playing as the title cards roll.

“The Lady of the House of Love” is a song of madness, or perhaps the struggle to prove one’s sanity. The ferocious driving riff gives away to sorrow, desperation and turmoil. It was a rustic, folky and Eastern European sound that sets it apart from the rest of the songs. A music video for this song was supposed to have been made but never seems to have been completed.

Poster by Ellen Rogers
The 8th track, “Leafy Sea Dragon Nursery” is a ghostly tune that one might hear echoing off the walls in an abandoned nursery, long-since inhabited by children or anything living. Among the dirty and discarded toys strewn along the floor, one might pick up a music box, only to open it and hear this music issue forth.

“Sheol” is another favorite of mine for its strange and powerfully atmospheric qualities. A particularly eerie track, it is composed from the theremin, a brilliantly creepy instrument that is controlled without even having to be touched. The sound is incredibly unique and is an automatic mood-setter. The scene I have pictured in my mind for “Sheol” is an empty and vast field covered by a night sky black and sequined with stars. But there aren’t just stars up above… you find yourself gazing up in awe, transfixed by the flashing colors of light and the sweet, though unsettling, sounds that echo over the land, wondering—and secretly fearing—that you aren’t as alone as you think.

A Blessed Unrest is a beautiful and haunting debut album from The Parlour Trick, and hopefully not their last. You can stream their entire album for free at their bandcamp (, and learn more about them on their website ( You can watch the video for “Half Sick of Shadows” below.

The Parlour Trick: "Half Sick of Shadows" (Starring Rachel Brice) from Theremina on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

COLD IN JULY (2014) : Unpredictable Noir Thriller Hits All The Right Notes

If you were wondering what kind of actor Michael C. Hall would be after Dexter and what kind of films he would choose, Cold in July is your answer.  Crime dramas never seem to go out of style, and casting Hall as an everyman that finds himself embroiled in a home invasion-turned conspiracy was a brilliant choice on director Jim Mickle's part.  Mickle is the force behind such horror fare as Mulberry Street (2006), Stakeland (2010), and the recent, well received remake We Are What We Are (2013), so he knows his way around the genre.  And while I certainly wouldn't call Cold in July a horror film, Mickle's experience made him a shoe-in to be both co-writer and behind the camera for this adaption of the 1989 Joe R. Lansdale novel.

Set in 1989 east Texas, the movie opens with Richard Dane (Hall) being awoken in the middle of the night by his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw, The Hills Have Eyes '06 - in case you can't recall where you've seen her!) when she hears a noise in their home.  Hall jumps up and quickly fumbles around until he finds his father's gun and cautiously creeps into the living room in the dark where he proceeds to surprise a burglar and in a fit of panic, shoots him dead.

As we were watching this, my husband quickly said that was exactly what he would do, because if someone breaks into your home, they mean you harm.  And I agreed.  Gone are the days in which people would try to call the police or see who the intruder is before killing them.  Nowadays it's just BAM!  It's all about protecting your family and home.  Shoot now, worry about the consequences later. 

Oh and what consequences they are.  With a claret-stained couch, blood splattered walls, police throughout the house and a frightened family at his side, Richard learns that the man he shot dead is Freddy Russell, a wanted felon.  Officer Ray Price (co-writer Nick Damici) also informs him that Freddy's father, Ben, is also a career criminal who has just been released on parole.  Sufficiently rattled, Richard tries to console his wife and young son and they attempt to move on from the horror of that evening.  He and Ann are seen cleaning the bloody walls, picture frames, clocks, scrubbing stained carpet, and finally removing the stained couch.  Rarely are we privy to what actually happens after a violent death in a house.  The police don't clean up for you.  They don't send someone in.  YOU do it.  An atypical reminder of real life, well played here by Hall and Shaw.

But Richard just can't let that horrible night die.  Still reeling over having shot a man to death, he shows up at the cemetery for the county-paid burial just in time to see them covering the gravesite.  When he turns back to drive away, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) is at his car door, quick to make a veiled threat against Richard and his family, in particular his young son.  He rushes to the school to pick up his son, and upon arrival at home he notices the doors are open.  Rattled to the core he goes to the police, who set up protection for him as several officers lie in wait in the nearby woods to pounce on Ben and arrest him if he makes a move.  Trying to sleep, Richard senses something wrong and rushes out of his bedroom to find the stationed guard out cold and his son's room locked from the inside.  Cops rush in, but Ben has made his escape through a window - and they discover he had been inside the house in the attic crawlspace the whole time. 

Where the film switches gears a bit is when Ben is apprehended just over the Mexican border and brought back to Texas, seemingly closing the chapter on Richard's nightmare.  But then at the police station making a final statement, he discovers a picture of Freddy Russell on the Most Wanted wall of shame - and realizes that is NOT the man he shot dead in his living room.  Officer Price shuts him down, saying he must be mistaken - it was dark, that the man he shot was definitely Freddy Russell.  But Richard again can't just let it go and eventually finds his way back to the station again, only to see Office Price and a few other officers leading Ben Russell out of the station and loading him into a car.  Richard follows behind and parks out of sight when they stop at an abandoned train station and dump an unconscious Ben Russell on the train tracks in the way of an oncoming train.

Confused and torn, Richard realizes something isn't right.  The man he killed was NOT Ben's son, and now the cops are obviously hiding something and trying to cover it up.  So he rushes out and pulls Ben off the tracks just in time.  He takes him to his father's secluded cabin, waits until he comes to and proceeds to tell him the unlikely story.  At first Ben reacts with complete disbelief - until he accompanies Richard to the cemetery where they unearth the body of what Ben thinks to be his son.  Upon the discovery that the man in the grave is unknown to him, Ben believes Richard and they start to devise a plan to uncover the truth.

Ben calls a fellow Korean War vet friend of his, private detective Jim Bob Luke (played by the always charismatic Don Johnson), who after some digging reveals that Freddy Russell was involved with the Dixie Mafia, has a price on his head because he turned state's evidence against them and has been in the Witness Protection program as of late.  The unlikely trio of Ben, Jim Bob and Richard take off in Jim Bob's caddy in search of clues, which has them landing head-first in a jumble of criminal activity when they discover Freddy makes a living by participating in snuff films.

This is a film that at first feels a lot like Cape Fear, until it doesn't.  I'm not saying it morphs into 8MM, but it's obvious at the beginning of the movie that Richard's family is in danger from Ben, who is anxious to rectify the death of his son.  But then the tables turn and the two become allies in a conspiracy that will drag them into the dark bowels of the human condition.

I loved seeing Michael C. Hall in a role that allowed him to show true emotion, instead of being just a cold-blooded, soulless serial killer.  He is as skilled at playing a run-of-the-mill family man as he is a heartless murderer, and he's got wonderful range to go along with his expressive eyes and talent for speaking without saying a word.  Sam Shepard is his usual low-key self, which serves him well when addressing Hall's character with a cold, unfeeling vengeance, yet he is able to turn a corner and befriend Richard when he realizes he's a good man who was taken advantage of just as much as he was.  And what can I say about Don Johnson that hasn't already been said?  It's so fun to see him play a bombastic character like this.  He's always able to rein in the swarm just enough to be utterly engaging and likeable. 

I also must mention the score, which smacks of John Carpenter (though composed by Jeff Grace) and feels absolutely 80's with its synth vibes following all the action on the screen in chilling perfection.

If you like films like the aforementioned Cape Fear, A History of Violence, and the more recent Prisoners and Blue Ruin, you're bound to enjoy this pulpy thriller.  I can't wait to see what Jim Mickle has in store for us next!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dark Arts: Christopher McKenney

Welcome back for another helping of Dark Arts, a monthly feature designed to stimulate your imagination and generate inspiration!

Today we turn our eye to photographer Christopher McKenney. I couldn’t turn up any information on him other than he is a horror surrealist photographer from Pennsylvania. No matter, we will let the faceless apparitions in his photos speak for themselves.

Hooded figures and cloth-cloaked spectres lurk in the fields and forests of McKenney’s work, and they are plotting something evil. Don’t follow their beckoning finger, don’t listen to their raspy words, no good can come of it. But it can’t hurt to just stop and look… right?

You can see more of Christopher McKenney’s work at his website,HERE.


Little Signs

The Calling


The Righteous Will Be Saved

The Hiding

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jessabelle (2014) : Back To The Bayou For Some Voodoo

Films with voodoo intertwined in the plot are far and few between, yet I always yearn for more.  My absolute favorite within the sub-genre, Angel Heart,  just simply can't be beat for plot, acting, atmosphere, score, and let's face it -the movie just looks fantastic!  So the bar has been set pretty high for me since oh, let's say...1987.   There have really only been a handful of semi-decent voodoo flicks since then, such as The Believers (also 1987, and really about Brujería [hoodoo] but close enough for me), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988, one of my guilty pleasures!), and The Skeleton Key (2005, which I always thought was a little underrated). Child's Play (1988) does have an element of voodoo since Charles Lee Ray practiced the religion and used a voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into a Good Guy doll, but they really didn't delve into the darker elements like these other films.

So when Jessabelle was making the trailer rounds, I was intrigued and perhaps even excited to check it out.  I never get my hopes up in watching a new horror film - though I still can't get enough of them - that way if it turns out to be good I am pleasantly surprised.  There haven't been a lot of surprises lately.  Hmpf!  Jessabelle doesn't do a whole lot to make the movie feel fresh at all, and in using the same old rhetoric and plot devices it fails to evoke any serious scares and falls well short of the aforementioned films. That said, there was enough going on within the hour and a half running time to keep my interest and semi-enjoy it.

The titular character Jessabelle (Sarah Snook) and her fiance are moving in together as the film opens.  They are obviously in love and excited to begin their new life together.  After loading the last of Jessie's belongings into their pick-up truck, they take off down the road of life....only to be involved in a devastating car crash that kills the fiance and (temporarily) paralyzes Jessie from the waist down. To add insult to injury, Jessie doesn't just lose the love of her life and her ability to walk - she loses the unborn child they were preparing for.

Her mother died of a long illness when Jessie was a baby and even though she hasn't set eyes on her father Leon (David Andrews) in years it is him that she is forced to call to pick her up at the hospital upon discharge.  Leon takes her back to his house deep in the Bayou and sets her up in her mother's old room - which has been strangely blocked off with a large cabinet for a seemingly long time.

In her new room she finds several of her mother's things, including a deck of tarot cards and a box with videocassettes in it.  More than curious, she watches the first tape to find her mother (Joelle Carter, Justified) doing a reading and speaking to her unborn child (Jessabelle).  The first card she turns is Death, but her mother explains that just means transformation.  The unsettling reading ends with Jessie's mother telling her that there is a presence in the house that doesn't want Jessie there.  When Jessie's father finds out what she's watching he seizes the tape and throws them in the trash then proceeds to take her wheelchair outside, wheel it down to the dock and throw it into the bayou.

Apologetic in the morning, her father presents her with her mom's old wheelchair and warns her that the tapes are not good for her to watch and that her mother had crazy ideas.  After he leaves for work Jessie is alone in the house and starts to experience some strange, even paranormal events.  When a therapist comes and helps her into the tub for a bath, Jessie falls asleep but is awakened and pulled under water by a malicious female spirit, who then seems to be screaming at her in every reel from then on.

She finds another hidden videotape and scares herself silly when she realizes her mother was either correct about someone being in the house - or she actually was crazy.  Maybe a little of both.  Her father is furious to find her watching another tape and he takes them outside to burn them.  Things go awry and somehow he ends up in his work-shed with a raging fire all around him. At his funeral (its' really not giving anything away to mention his death), Jessie reconnects with an old high school boyfriend, Preston (Mark Webber).  She starts to tell him about the strange events and they begin doing some research into the past. It's obvious Preston still has a thing for Jessie, but just when you think they are going to quickly couple up we are introduced to his wife

Preston continues to help her despite the scowls and torments of his wife, and their search leads them to a grave on the other side of the bayou on the property.  When they uncover the name, and it says Jessabelle - with Jessie's exact birth date, it's clear that malevolent forces are at work here.

I wanted to love Jessabelle.  I really did.  But now I know I am destined to only just tolerate this recent venture into voodoo.  All things told, it really incorporated too many different ideas in one film - I had way too many unanswered questions.  Was Jessie's mother a voodoo priestess?  A witch?  Do voodoo practitioners use Tarot cards?  Why were there evil spirits?  Was the house itself haunted?  Or was the apparition supposed to be a demon?  Was someone possessed by the devil or was it a voodoo possession - which is allegedly a good thing in voodoo? Did I not pay close enough attention and miss something profoundly important?

Regardless, I didn't hate it. The atmosphere of a steamy, shadowy bayou was ever-present.  Is anything creepier than all that Spanish moss hanging from the trees over the brackish water of the dark bayou? No matter how you spin it, that area of Louisiana just screams spooky.
Sarah Snook, for being an Aussie, does a pretty good job of spinning that cajun accent, and does emulate well a frightened young woman with all kinds of questions and nothing to lose.  But there just wasn't enough actual voodoo.  I was looking for loads more secret rituals, inexplicable transformations - maybe even a few zombies for pete's sake!
But instead all I was left with was hopes and dreams for the next voodoo film that comes along.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Beneath (2014) : When Fear Meets Madness Below The Earth

I live in the coal-mining region of the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern US.  This area is home to thousands upon thousands of underground mines, and in turn employs hundreds of thousands of coal miners.  Some houses in my and neighboring towns are built on old mines and at times, have sunk into the earth. There is (at least in my opinion) a ridiculous amount of cancer in this area.  Lung cancer and emphysema from breathing in the coal dust, as well as other cancers you'll have a hard time convincing me isn't caused by all the noxious fumes and pollution the earth and water sources are forced to consume as they settle into the ground. That said, this is a very proud area, where lives are built and families are raised due to the coal industry.  It's a dying industry, to be sure, but nonetheless it is the backbone of the Appalachians. 

This little history lesson does have a point.  If you want to scare someone from this area whose lives are already touched by coal mining, make a horror movie about a mining accident.  Mining disasters, collapses, cave-ins - they are all a part of life here and miners know the chance they take every time they go under the ground.  There really couldn't be anything scarier, in my opinion.  Except maybe if you made a movie about it.  You've got everything a horror fan could possibly need.  Dark, dank and creepy? Check.  Extremely dangerous? Check.  Claustrophobia? A BIG check.  Stuck in a helpless situation? Check. People losing their mind, hallucinating, and resorting to murder? Check (oxygen depletion will do that to a person).  Possible supernatural element?  Check....

Most horror fans have seen My Bloody Valentine.  And many horror fans have seen The Descent.  I don't think it's me going out on a limb to say Beneath is kind of a lesser mash-up of these two films.  While it will never match The Descent's balls-to-the-wall dose of claustrophobia, and it doesn't have the blatant (and sometimes unintentional) humor of MBV, it does stand on its own as a decent flick to check out on a random Saturday night. 

Samantha Marsh (Kelly Noonan) is back in her home town to see her father George (Jeff Fahey), who is ending his long mining career and doing some celebrating with co-workers on the night before his last dig.  This coal miner's daughter moved away and became (much to the chagrin of George's fellow miners) an environmental lawyer.  Partying lends way to teasing and eventually George's fellow miners daring Sam to come into the mine on George's last day.  Sam's old boyfriend Randy (Joey Kern) isn't too keen on the idea - and some of the older men are a bit rattled when Sam agrees to go, saying it's bad luck for a woman to be down in the mine.

But off they go, greeting the hesitant sunrise as they drive to the mine early the next day.  Randy advises Sam to "say goodbye to the daylight" as they descend into the mine, and you can feel Sam's uneasiness kick into full gear.  Naturally, you already can surmise something tragic is about to take place, and it does.  When one of the miners accidentally drills through a support wall, he triggers a collapse, leaving some men dead or separated from the others and unaccounted for, with the remaining miners trapped.

Luckily, those that are together are in the same vicinity as the "condominium", a large metal container filled with supplies and enough oxygen to keep survivors alive for 5-6 days - which should be ample time considering communication with the world above leads them to believe they will be rescued within 72 hours.  So they settle in to the tin box, which itself seems even more claustrophobic than the mine, and fix up the nasty fracture of one of the older men. 

When they start to hear sounds coming from outside the container, they assume it could be coming from miners still trapped in the tunnels and several of the men leave in search of survivors.  As is oft the case in horror films, people become separated and suffer the consequences of being alone.  What we are teased with here though, is not just the fact that Sam and the men are becoming more oxygen depleted by the moment, but also that there may be something preternatural at work here.  A story told about a group of 19 miners who were lost in a cave-in during the 1920's lends a hint of nostalgic terror to the movie, and makes the viewer start thinking about possible supernatural elements presenting themselves. Is something else down there in the depths of the earth with them? 

The otherworldly are always more dreadful when enclosed in small spaces. Movies like Below (terror on a submarine), Devil (in an elevator), The Last Winter (at a drilling base in the Arctic) and the aforementioned The Descent (in a series of endless caves) are proof positive that you don't want to be in close quarters with any type of paranormal activity.  (In fact, if claustrophobic horror has your interest piqued, check out this post.)

The decision of going forward to look for fellow lost miners or staying put to try to save themselves and conserve oxygen brings morality into the film as well.  But when things start going awry at the container, all bets are off and the dwindling group heads deeper into the mine to search for other survivors, discover a way out, or run out of oxygen and die within the dark mine shaft.

Effects in the film are minimal, but what is there is good.  An early leg fracture is grisly, as are a few pick-axe injuries that spill insides and crack skulls.  Ghostly effects are good as well, not too overdone and not too many that it gets mundane.  Acting skills are noticeable as well, with Fahey wheezing and coughing his way through most of the picture and Kern delivering believable concern for his fellow co-workers and later fear as the O2 dwindles and the body count rises.  Noonan, as Sam, is a convincing big-city girl stuck in Hickville, USA, and not fitting into the hometown scenario anymore.  But her love for her father is palpable and her terror regarding her questionable fate is easily seen.  Again, I wouldn't say her acting is quite up to the standards of the majority of the female "Descent" cast, but she does hold her own.

We are meant to be a bit confused by Beneath at times, I think.  Are the hallucinations that present themselves ghosts?  Or are they they product of very little oxygen and a whole lot of mind-tricks? I can think of nothing more terrifying than knowing you are trapped 600 feet underground and your oxygen supply is little to none.  I assume there would be a certain amount of denial, which we are shown by Sam here.  And as that wavers and fate is realized, acceptance would set in.  That's something we can deal with.  Optical illusions that may or may not be ghosts of miners long lost - that's another thing altogether.

One minor annoyance is the film tagline, "based on true events".  Hmm... If I had a quarter for every time I saw that I would be buying that new 4-door Jeep Wrangler I have my eye on.  That ridiculous statement dumbs down nearly any film it is attached to.  Think about it.  No really... The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Entity, The Mothman Prophecies, The Serpent and the Rainbow....I could go on. And on. But I won't.   Hey, we can't all be The Descent.

Regardless, I enjoyed this little flick well enough. Coal mining is a brutally unforgiving job, wrought with injury, anxiety, and a sometimes hopeless future, so when you add in the supernatural factor, it's bound to scare me well enough.  I've always been a huge fan of MBV, campy or not - so another film set in a mine was bound to be gold to me.  See what I did there?