Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beneath (2014)

As this is a brand new movie put on Netflix just a little while ago, I'd like to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am that I can review these movies and help a budding young start-up company like Netflix succeed in this harsh business climate. I'll be waiting for my check in the mail, guys. Just make it out to Cinema Freaks.

After the runaway successes of Mine Games in 2012 and Abandoned Mine in 2013, film producers thought they were really onto something with this whole mine thing. So this year we got the third installment to this epic trilogy with Beneath – a true-life story, apparently, about a bunch of miners that got stuck in a mine or some shit like that. I would try and put some effort into looking up about the true story that inspired this, but frankly that would be doing more work than the writers for this movie did. And I'm not about to do that.

Director: Ben Ketai
Starring: Kelly Noonan, Jeff Fahey

We start this crap off with a bunch of bland white people hanging out in a shitty bar celebrating this girl Sam's dad's retirement from working in a mine. There's a bit of flirting, a little bit of back and forth banter, but really nothing substantial.

"Do you think this movie will seem better if we keep on drinking?"
"Probably not, but go ahead and try!"

The first twenty minutes of the movie are like this, in fact. Pretty much just bland people talking about bland things. I'll give it credit for not being complete asinine stupidity or cliché like the other two mine movies I've done, but it isn't replacing that with anything else. I guess the only thing of note that happens is when the guys dare Sam to come down in the mine with them because her whole college tuition was paid for by her father's mine job.

Being a complete idiot, she of course says yes. And to one up her on the idiocy scale, both her father and boyfriend have absolutely no problem with her coming down into the mine with them even though she'll probably just be a liability and will just be standing around doing nothing. I don't really know how I'm supposed to be invested in this – I mean, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day was awkward enough for the daughter of the town gynecologist. You don't really need to compete here, you jackasses.

"Dad, I miss the old days when you just neglected me all the time as opposed to dragging me down into a mine to die."

They have some more very bland, safe dialogue that mostly listens like they were just trying to fill the space. Because you know how it is – creating dialogue is kind of like filling in the cracks of cement on the sidewalk. It's just a utilitarian thing.

"So how much longer do we have to read the boring dialogue from this script? I could come up with better lines in my sleep!"
"Hell, I could come up with better lines drunk off my ass!"

You know what else is utilitarian? This crazy looking machine!

Chekhov's Gun? What's that?

Which I'm sure won't be used to kill anyone in this movie. Because that would just be foreshadowing if you showed THAT ahead of time!

Sigh. The movie apparently thinks it's interesting to have the characters wandering around explaining things about the mine. If you really think that's a good idea, just stop watching this movie, drive to West Virginia and ask them what they think about climate change issues and carbon emissions, and you'll have a much better time.

It turns out even the mine itself is bored of them, as it falls asleep and collapses randomly. I guess it was just waiting for the right time to do that, as clearly it's an incredible coinky-dink that it happened when they were inside the mine for five minutes AND the only time they brought a “fish out of water” character in with them! How dramatically convenient!

I also love that they decided to bring her down into this mine that apparently was in danger of collapsing. Even disregarding the randomness of nature, you'd think they would've gone “hey, fragile young woman who has no experience in mines, maybe THIS isn't the right mine for you to come down into because it might collapse!” But that wouldn't have been as funny. Or, again, as dramatically convenient, because if real life can't imitate art, what can?

They all make their ways to this special emergency center thing where they can hide out and not die from a lack of oxygen. One of the guys, I guess, hurts his leg when a rock falls on it, and so he's pretty much confined there. They all demonstrate their Oscar-worthy scowls and looking worried skills, but really, unless this is going to be the mine version of The Thing, I just can't bring myself to care.

Just keep scowling at the floor. For inspiration, try thinking of how disappointing the final movie will be when you actually see it.

They eventually make the decision to go look for some of their buddies who might've gotten lost in the chaos of the collapse. One guy says he doesn't want to go wandering around out there, and the others get mad and start bullying him into coming. I don't even get it; if he doesn't want to come, who gives a shit? Just leave him there and go yourselves! Why would you even want someone with you who isn't into the idea? It'd just slow you down in the end! But I guess they're operating on “teenage girls going to the bathroom” rules and have to travel in a pack, you know, like all miners.

"You don't want to go with us? Well that is just unacceptable. You are now the new leader of this group!"
"But that means I could just call off the whole thing with my newfound leadership power!"

Because this is a place some of these people have worked for years and should know it like the back of their hand, of course they get lost and spend a lot of the next half hour just stumbling around. If you aren't tired of scenes of characters wandering around in the dark shining flashlights at rocks, well, you will be after watching this shit for 25 minutes straight.

I guess one guy does finally get caught in that wacky death trap machine from earlier, but even then, it's not like the movie lets us see that. Like most great horror movies, it skimps out on the gore and instead just replaces it with a pitch black void of soul-sucking nothingness.

They just do more of the same shit again and again for the rest of the movie's second act. At one point, they're called back and end up losing the oxygen in their tank, which really stresses Sam's father out. He goes on a whole rant about how Sam wanted him to retire because she's a big shot lawyer now and her and her mother both were conspiring against him. It's really quite an insane temper tantrum and has nothing to do with anything in the rest of the movie, nor does it ever come up again. So...good job?

Somebody needs a nap. Or a swift decapitation - whichever's more your bag.

I just really want to see them get out of this alive, then Sam's dad comes to visit her at her lawyer job and the exact same thing happens. Like they get trapped inside a law office and have to navigate through the endless halls of litigation paperwork, manila folders and zombies in order to get out. That would be a good movie.

Because, yes, that’s what this movie has in its third act - zombie-like creatures.

I’m just so glad this based-on-a-true-story film is keepin’ it real for those of us who are really interested in mining accidents. The usual dangers are all here. Suffocation, dying of loneliness...zombies.

They have a battle with this one guy who gets possessed and lock him in a cage. He then turns back to normal and says he’s fine and doesn’t understand why he’s locked in a cage. This character, throughout the goddamn movie, has been consistently abrasive, assholeish and rude. So really, maybe he wasn’t possessed and the characters just finally pulled the wool off their eyes and realized he was a dick.

"Yeah, we know you weren't really a killer. We just really hate you."

They go back to the shelter and come up with the brilliant idea to blow up dynamite to try and make a hole so they can escape. They find the very old dynamite very easily, which looks exactly like they just took it out of a Roadrunner cartoon of course, and really why wouldn’t they have this unlit dynamite from a hundred years ago in a mine that people still use today? It just makes the most sense.

Then they light them and nothing but a small piece of paper with 'BANG' written on it pops out.

Unfortunately, before they can get to that, there are more zombies afoot who can magically change back to human whenever they want! For a movie trying to sell itself as ‘based on a true story,’ they sure are good at pulling these zombie rules straight out of their asses, because I’ve literally never heard of this being a thing at all.

Then they blow up the wall and of course escape the thunderous, fiery ball of destruction that ensues by hiding behind a wall a few feet away, and survive without a scratch on them. Realistic, just the way I like my horror movies.

Then they get saved and it turns out that, DUN DUN DUN, Sam has become a zombie too! Oh no! That will immediately get noticed and then they’ll quarantine or kill her to prevent the spread of it, and nothing will happen at all!

I don't even get it; how did nobody not notice this? Why are they able to transform back and forth at will? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?! I guess we'll never know, because this movie is over. A door that should remain closed, I think.

This movie is boring. I mean, the least they could have done was just go all the way with the abject ridiculousness of the scenario and toss in giant slimy worm monsters in the mine, or characters having sex scenes set to ridiculous 2000s wannabe grunge music. No, those things wouldn’t have made it a better film, but at least it would have been kind of funny.

Instead we got the tired “based on a true story” crap, which apparently for this movie meant making it as dull and bland as they could, with little memorable dialogue, no good characters and really only like one or two half-decent scares. Oh, and zombies and stuff, which totally round out this whole thing as a credible true story. I apologize for continually repeating that sarcastic quip about the movie’s realism, but honestly it’s just baffling to me that these movies even try to pass off that “true story” crap as a legit story device...when you confront them about it, a lot of them will say “oh, well it’s only based on a true story, but we took some creative artistic licenses with it and made it better!”

If you’re really trying to tell a true story, why bother fabricating ridiculous horror cliche tropes around it? Why not just make your own fictional, fantastical story if you want to throw in zombies? You have to pick one - either it’s a true story, in which case you stick to realistic horror (which can’t be that hard to do in a claustrophobic, dark-ass mine), or you just ditch the “based on a true story” angle and tell a goofy fantastical horror tale. But you won’t, because saying it’s based on a true story is an easy shortcut to cover up for crap writing.

Sigh. On second thought, doing these mine movies was a terrible idea. Why didn’t anyone stop me? The only pervading lesson throughout all of them was, don’t ever go in a fucking mine.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.