At first glance (and even second), the quiet indie thriller Beneath the Dark (aka Wake, to those who prowl the film festival circuit) starts out feeling a bit like the kind of stuff John Dahl makes (damn solid flicks like Red Rock West and Joy Ride), and then feels more like a standard “motel thriller” a la Vacancy or Identity -- but finally in the third act, Beneath the Dark becomes its own movie. Unfortunately it was more interesting when it was copying other flicks.
Sort of a neo-noir that, to its credit, asks you to jump in and keep up with two (and a half) disparate subplots that, of course, are slowly being drawn together. Thread one involves a young couple who are forced to spend the night at an out-of-the-way motel, and the other deals with a clueless schlub whose wife is an obvious adulterer, although he doesn’t know it, and all the people I just mentioned manage to show up at (yep) the same motel.
Also, the familiar-looking hotel manager seems to be hiding something, although that’s pretty much a given in a flick like this.
Bolstered by a few strong performances (Angela Featherstone is particularly amusing) and an impressive air of restraint and pace (almost to a fault, truth be told), Beneath the Dark is yet another low-budget thriller that looks and sounds like “every other” low-budget thriller, and is therefore destined to a quick festival run and then a long life on the video shelves and cable channels. But as a calling-card-type project for first-time writer/director Chad Feehan, there’s certainly enough here to forgive some rough spots, ignore that we saw a twist or two coming, and enjoy a Serling-esque motel thriller pulls off most of what it’s shooting for.