Beneath (2013)

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Not to be confused with Beast Beneath, this cold-sweat skin crawler from director Ben Ketai, plunges us into some seriously subterranean depths for claustrophobic goosebumps not seen around these parts since Neil Marshall’s The Descent (a below-the-surface horror highwater mark).

Filmed in a very realistic coal mine (no location info available) operation, a group of unlucky miners, along with their boss (Jeff Fahey) and his plucky daughter (Kelly Noonan), find themselves stranded 600 feet below ground after an unexpected tectonic turn. Searching for a way out, they come across an older tunnel that leads to the abandoned outpost of a mining crew that disappeared nearly 100 years earlier. Meanwhile, their emergency supply of oxygen canisters is dwindling faster than free drinks at a wedding reception. Wait! Did you hear something?

Since Beneath is “based on actual events,” the likelihood of mole men, ghouls, or trogs appearing out of the stonework seems remote at best, but to their credit, Ketai and writers Patrick Doody and Chris Valenziano keep a firm hand on the reins and the threat levels high. I myself experienced the same sense of impending doom (and fear of tight spaces) that I felt while getting to know the colorful company of marines in Cameron’s Aliens.

I wish I could have contributed to the marketing of this movie, because I have a can’t-miss tagline. “The poisonous atmosphere left them—OXYGEN DEPRAVED!” (The written content of Horrificflicks.com is my intellectual property, by the way.)

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Dark Ride (2006)

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darkride

If you’ve seen the Tobe Hooper flick Funhouse (1981), then there’s no particular reason to sit through this inferior facsimile. Yes, The Sopranos Jamie-Lynn Sigler is onboard, as is Patrick Renna from The Sandlot. Neither possesses sufficient dramatic gravitas to make the slightest bit of difference on the quality scale. On the plus side, Dark Ride is adequately paced and there’s a decent amount of bloodletting, including a memorable axe-chop that neatly cleaves a security guard in twain.

Six very old-looking college kids (including Sigler and Renna), on their way to New Orleans, stop off to visit a boardwalk amusement park where a pair of adorable moppets were hacked to smithereens a few decades earlier. Meanwhile, the maniac who committed the killings decides there’s no time like the present to escape from the loony bin, and seek sanctuary in the bowels of the very same carnival ride that the “kids” intend to explore. What are the odds, right?

Other than some brief nudity and the aforementioned head-splitter, director/cowriter Craig Singer doesn’t bring anything especially compelling to the table, including an identity plot twist that I had pegged accurately the moment it appeared. Dark Ride doesn’t suck, exactly, but if you give it a pass there’s no harm done.

Afterthought: This is exactly the sort of “meh” film that presents me with a challenging dilemma, as to whether or not I should even bother reviewing it. But at the end of the day (I never use this phrase!), if I can save even one of you from a case of overly high expectations in the Netflix horror queue, then my life has meaning.