Beneath the Dark


Good Performances and Music Can’t Save a Predictable Story

Main Cast: Josh Stewart and Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Director: Chad Freehan

You know when a “young couple” shows up at a roadside motel in the middle of the night in a movie one of two things is going to happen. Option 1) the motel is run by sadistic psychos and the couple will have to battle for their lives. Option 2) the couple were in a wreck on the road, they didn’t realize it, and the motel is really a sort of purgatory where they will have to battle for their souls. Unfortunately, those are the only two options allowed for these kinds of stories.

So in Beneath the Dark, Paul (Josh Stewart, The Collector) and Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, “The Sopranos”) are driving through the Mojave Desert on their way to LA for the wedding of one of Paul’s fraternity brothers. They almost get in a wreck, so Adrienne insists they find a motel for the night because Paul has been driving for hours. They show up at Roy’s, meet the night manager Frank (Chris Browning, Terminator: Salvation), and the events begin to unfold.

I’m not going to spoil WHICH of the two previously mentioned options Beneath the Dark explores, but I will say that, by ten minutes in, if you haven’t figured it out, you’re not paying attention.

I really hate figuring out movies before the end. I don’t think I necessarily TRY to do it, but after writing fiction for over half my life now, it sorta just comes naturally, especially when the plot is so thin and frail and meticulously mapped out. But I watched anyway, hoping I’d get to the end and be wrong and find, instead, an actual surprise. Plus I like Josh Stewart, he’s pretty cool.

The only previous work of writer/director Chad Freehan I have any experience with is Paranormal Activity 4, for which he came up with the story while Christopher Landon wrote the script. I know a lot of people hate those PA movies–my daughter included–but I’ll watch Paranormal Activity 20 in the theaters when it comes out. So I had hopes for Freehan’s directorial debut, and I was half right. As a director, he’s got a great eye, an excellent sense of suspense and tension, and the film is wonderfully edited. Plus the soundtrack is wonderful. Unfortunately the story is lacking.

Sure, it’s got complexities many other movies like this don’t have. We get to see how things tie together even when we didn’t think they possibly could, and it all fits together very nicely in the end. It’s just predictable, that’s my only problem.

The performances were pretty good, even though Chris Browning as Frank seemed half asleep through the majority. But Stewart and Sigler, I enjoyed a lot. Their relationship felt very natural to me.

Beneath the Dark is, unfortunately, a nothing little movie that probably not a lot of people will see. And that’s okay. I mean, I thought it was okay, maybe even one of the better made movies of this particular subgenre, but it’s not like it’s breathing new life into the young couple at the roadside motel movie. I don’t regret spending the hour and forty-two minutes on it, but I’m not going to insist everyone rush to Netflix and watch it immediately. Take it or leave it, your call.

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