Monday, January 2, 2012

Dennis Quaid channels Tony Perkins in Martin Guigui's BENEATH THE DARKNESS

What is it with these murderous morticians? A year or so back we had Liam Neeson's low-key, subtle and very funny ("Oh, you people!") version in Now, Dennis Quaid takes on the emblematic embalmer, coming at you like gangbusters and appearing to want to channel the late Tony Perkins as nutcase extraor-dinaire. Of course, Perkins had Psycho and the talents of Alfred Hitchcock surrounding him. Quaid has a little number titled BENEATH THE DARKNESS and the Argentina-born director Martin Guigui (shown below) to serve his needs. The result has its moments, all right, but it's not what you'd call memorable.

It's hard to make a good thriller. Something as fine as Wes Craven's Red Eye (or the recent Point Blank from France) comes along maybe once a decade. Mostly, these would-be scare-fests reply on dumb character behavior to result in mayhem. This is indeed a problem with Beneath the Darkness, and the problem is made even worse by a screenplay (from Bruce Wilkinson, which he evidently has been trying to bring to fruition for quite awhile) that conflates would-be ghosts with a cuckolded husband, jealousy, revenge, murder, insanity and some very silly teenagers. I suspect that if Wilkinson has just dropped the "ghost" angle from his screenplay and concentrated on the mortician/revenge and the interloping teens, he'd have had a tighter, shorter and more riveting thriller.

But we must take what we're given, which is Quaid (above) -- hamming it up quite nicely, even affectionately, as the villain -- and our set of teens, brought to life by a quartet of attractive youngsters who are believable enough actors (mostly from TV) but are asked to do some rather unbelievable things. Oh, those kids!

After their first bit of idiocy (breaking into the Quaid character's house, above) results in one death and an entire town that seems to side, as dumb towns will do, with the villain and against our heroes, what do these young troupers do? Go back into that house, of course. And not just once, but twice! Well, teenage nit-witery knows no bounds.

Things get sillier -- but also, I must say, with some nice moments of suspense and jolts (that's Quaid with our heroine played by Aimee Teegarden, above) -- ending up in a cemetery, below. Well, where else would any reputable mortician be -- although perhaps not in the dead of night.

This cemetery scene will put you in mind of, among many other movies, I Know Who Killed Me (not one you'd want to be put in mind of), the film that seemed to begin Lindsay Lohan's long slide into public service. That's our hero, played by Tony Oller, above (digging up a storm) and below, right, with Ms Teegarden and Stephen Lunsford, left, who plays his friend/competitor.

Beneath the Darkness, from Sunset Pictures and Image Entertainment (98 minutes, and a little too long for what it has to offer: good B-movie thrillers usually come in under the hour-and-a-half mark), opens this Friday in New York City at the Village VII and in the Los Angeles area at the AMC Citywalk Stadium 19, the Regency Plant 16, and the Krikorian Buena Park 18. The film will also be appearing in another half dozen cities here and there around the country. Click here to see the complete list of playdates.

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