The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Say the name Larry Fessenden to any hardcore horror buff and you're likely to be met with a squeal of delight. Fessenden has been making original, idiosyncratic horror flicks since the 1990s (and some oddball shorts before that). Among them: Habit, Wendigo and The Last Winter. The filmmaker's most recent effort, Beneath, initially appears to be another “something's in the water” chiller, not unlike Piranha or Jaws. Slowly, though, it adds in a twist that sets it apart.

This is the story of six high school seniors who head to a lake for an afternoon of fun. The characters fit typical stereotypes: a jock (Chris Conroy), a blonde flirt (Bonnie Dennison), a brainiac/aspiring filmmaker (Griffin Newman), etc. They hop in a small boat and make their way out to the middle, only to discover that a freakishly large, massively-fanged catfish is in the water. The screenplay finds an excuse to strand them there so that the only way to get help is for someone to swim to shore. Needless to say, attempts to do this are somewhat less than successful.

That's the standard part of Beneath. The interesting twist is that the characters decide the only way to choose which person will do the swimming is to vote. And then, when that person meets a grisly fate, they vote again. Having to do this brings out suppressed grudges, secretly-held criticisms, and bitter rivalries. To its credit, you don't know for sure how each round of voting will go, and that adds suspense and drama. The real menace, it turns out, isn't in the water; it's in the boat.

The performances in Beneath are pretty good, and the use of practical special effects was a wise one. The deranged fish looks fairly menacing. There are a few things that could have been improved upon. The dialogue is occasionally clunky, more could have been done to maximize the horror of the fish attacks, and the ending feels like it needs just a little bit more oomph. But on the whole, Beneath is at least ambitious, with a pleasing desire to create a human horror that's every bit as real as the aquatic one.

Scream Factory has put together a typically impressive assortment of supplemental goodies for the film, starting with a commentary track from Fessenden and sound designer Graham Reznick. “Behind Beneath: Making the Fish Movie” is an hour-long making-of feature. You also get fourteen minutes of outtakes, a surprisingly interesting 2-minute piece on the printing of the poster, and the theatrical trailer. But that's not all. There's nearly twenty minutes of the aspiring filmmaker's “previous” work, as well as a bit of Fessenden's own: a delightfully kooky remake of Jaws using miniatures he created. Wrapping it up is a “found footage” look at the mysterious lake at the center of the story.

Picture and sound quality on the Blu are tops. Coupled with the extensive bonus materials, Beneath is most definitely of interest for fans of Larry Fessenden.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Beneath is unrated but contains bloody violence, language, and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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