A plot summary for ‘Beneath The Darkness’ would surely titillate a bloody murder fan or a scary thriller fan and maybe even a mystery fan, but it would be a shame to lead them on with just the summary.
That item, in a super-condensed version, goes something like a lot of others: small Texas town, former football hero now a widower and mortician, ‘haunted’ mansion/mortuary where something very strange is happening, and a group of curious/foolish high school characters.
Now you have the gripper: mortician dances with unidentified woman as kids peep in through curtains, then wait for weird dude to leave so they can break in and check things out. What they find is the dark secret, one of them is killed, and now the mortician must go to bizarre lengths to prevent the rest from spreading the news.
The film, directed by Martin Giugiu, seems to be aiming for Psycho-grade chills, but wavers between camp and gore that’s not so much horrifying as it is boring, after a while. Dennis Quaid as Ely the severely stressed-out mortician has top billing, and one wonders what possessed him to take on the role. Though he does his capable best to make something of it he’s foiled at almost every turn by the lack of good material to work with in Bruce Wilkinson’s script.
In the opening scenes, we see Ely forcing another man to dig up a grave that contains an empty coffin, and burying the fellow alive in said coffin. Turns out the former inhabitant was Ely’s dead wife, whose corpse is the ‘woman’ he was seen dancing with by the peeping teenagers. However, after those first scenes, the action cuts forward two years, when we find the teenagers in English class, studying ‘Macbeth’ and Poe’s ‘The Telltale Heart’.
This is background, so we can understand how come these kids are so susceptible to the macabre nuances but not why they follow the scripted action that makes them sneak back to the house in a noble effort to uncover and report the goings on, in the face of disbelief from local authorities and the death of poor Danny.
The teens, Travis (Tony Oller), Abby (Aimee Teegarden), Brian (Stephen Lunsford) and Danny (Devon Werkheiser) take on the challenge of convincing small-town police that dire doings are in progress involving a highly respected member of the community (Quaid), and of course nobody believes them. Even when one of them is killed (after being precipitated down some stairs) the attitude is “Aw hell, this isTexas”, which might offend some Texans – but maybe not.
Basically, ‘Beneath The Darkness’ is one of the straight-to-DVD films that didn’t get there soon enough. Bruce Wilkinson’s death in 2011 may be the only reason his name is in the credits, since this screenplay is the only one he ever produced, and must have been re-hashed by various other writers with visions of we’re not sure what.