One always likes to find a stray nugget of legitimate goodness in a low-budget horror flick -- at least one who writes for FEARnet always does -- and it's always helpful when an otherwise generic genre potboiler offers at least one promising component ... but things don't always go as we'd like.
Case in point: the recent indie horror flick Beneath the Darkness can boast Dennis Quaid as its key antagonist. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mr. Quaid is playing a homicidal mortician who keeps a corpse in his house and talks to it. More than once a group of local teens break in to Quaid's funeral home in an effort to, I think, pretend they're the Scooby-Doo gang, but even after the maniacal mortician kills one of their friends in plain sight -- they still think they should keep poking around in the madman's business.
If you broke this tale out during a campfire, you'd be booed into silence in less than four minutes. Flatly written by first-timer Bruce Wilkinson, drably presented by director Martin Guigui (he of National Lampoon's Cattle Call), and performed by actors who, let's be frank, could barely qualify as mannequins, Beneath the Darkness feels like a failed TV pilot about an eerie town, a kooky mortician, and a bunch of dull teenagers who ramble on and on about ghosts and visions and guilt and zzzzzzzzzzzz...
Given my longtime affection for the acting performances of Dennis Quaid, combined with the fact that Beneath the Darkness was shot in and around my beloved city of Austin, Texas, I sat down with Beneath the Darkness more than willing to forgive a few rough patches. Unfortunately the entire 95-minute feature is more or less a rough patch. There are those who may take great pleasure in watching Dennis Quaid mumble, stumble, and throw his eyes around the room as a ravenous murderer, but the film is too dry and tame for the actor to get truly nutty -- and while it's great to see a cool movie star work for a low-budget production, the filmmakers don't do Quaid any favors by giving him nothing to do beside jump out from behind trees in very silly fashion.
I'm still not sure why Mr. Quaid chose this particular indie to work on, given the film's vague premise, confused narrative, and frankly boring concept. Leading lunatic aside, there's nothing in Beneath the Darkness you haven't seen before, better, and recently.