It’s rare to see a low budget horror film carried so completely by the performances, but that’s what you get with Beneath the Dark, which I almost sort of recommend if you can stomach a slow-burn anti-thriller. The lead actor is the very Sean Penn-ish Josh Stewart (pictured, shirtless). He almost single-handedly saves a movie called The Collector, which is like Saw meets Home Alone. But unlike The Collector, there are four other good performances in Beneath the Dark, from a set of actors you’ve probably never seen before but are liable to mistake for James LeGros, Marisa Tomei, Virginia Madsen, or Catherine O’Hara.
You can figure out what you’re in for when, early on, a mysterious character offers Stewart a cigarette from a pack of Overlook Cigarettes. Besides, the road trip as a supernatural rite of passage is almost its own genre at this point. The concept was featured recently in Dark Country, an incredibly awkward Thomas Jane vanity project that tries to capture the look and feel of EC horror comics, and Altitude, in which the road trip is taken on an airplane. Ray Wise did a pathetic family road trip movie called Dead End several years ago in the same vein. One called Rest Stop was successful enough that it had a sequel.
Beneath the Dark is predictable and the direction is sadly artless, but it’s a decent script with five interesting performances. And although you know where it’s going, it reserves a nice surprise for the very end.
Beneath the Dark is on DVD and Netflix’s Instant Watch.