Actor Dennis Quaid has made his career playing the square-jawed leading man hero, but in the thriller Beneath the Darkness
, he does an about-face, starring as the villain, an unbalanced loner with a dark and murderous secret life. Unfortunately for Quaid, though, Beneath
is beneath him.
Recently widowed small-town mortician Ely Vaughn (Dennis Quaid) is described by local kids as "weird," and his home is rumored to be haunted, so naturally a group of curious, bored teens decide to check the place out late one night. When Ely catches them, the seemingly mild-mannered man releases his dark side, killing high school football player Danny (Devon Werkheiser) before his best friend Travis' (Tony Oller) eyes. The police don't believe Travis' story, however, and officially declare Danny's death an accident. It's thus up to Travis and his pals Brian (Stephen Lunsford) and Abby (Aimee Teegarden) to prove Ely's guilt while trying to avoid their friend's fate at the hands of the undercover maniac.
The End Result
Dennis Quaid in 'Beneath the Darkness'.© Image Entertainment
Beneath the Darkness
is one of those movies that makes you wonder how a major star like Dennis Quaid could be attracted to it. The script is by-the-numbers thriller stuff, with clichéd genre characters -- the teens whom nobody believes, the psycho killer masquerading as an upright citizen -- generic action and few twists and turns. Seemingly its only hint at aspirations beyond the everyday killer-next-door fare is a weak semi-supernatural tangential storyline that goes nowhere and adds nothing but confusion to the plot. Although it takes cues from classics such as Psycho
and Rear Window
, I hesitate to mention Beneath the Darkness
in the same breath as those great films.
Quaid is, of course, a fine actor, and while I don't doubt that he could play an passable homicidal maniac, he doesn't do so in this movie. His character's public persona isn't likable enough to contrast effectively with his Norman Bates-ish dark side, and his dark side isn't imposing enough to feel sufficiently intimidating. His borderline comedic incompetence at homicide (no need to lock the door with a captive inside, I guess) doesn't help matters, nor does the awkward intentional stab at comedy in the film's final scene.
Beneath the Darkness is director Martin Guigui's first stab at horror/suspense, and it shows in the painfully unscary final product. Not only is the direction sterile, but the musical cues are mistimed and the "scary" reveals are overly casual -- granted, the perfunctory action in the predictable genre plot doesn't allow for many scares or surprises beyond Quaid's agreeing to take this role.
- Acting: C+ (A solid cast does what it can with the material.)
- Direction: D+ (Dull, sterile, lacking any genre punch.)
- Script: D (Predictable and overly simplistic.)
- Gore/Effects: C- (Little to speak of.)
- Overall: D+ (A generic thriller for Dennis Quaid fans only.)
Beneath the Darkness is directed by Martin Guigui and is rated R by the MPAA for some violence and language. Release date: January 6, 2012.
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