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As lifeless as the bride its villain keeps in his house, Psycho-style, years after killing her, Martin Guigui‘s Beneath the Darkness is a teens-in-trouble thriller with barely enough momentum to make it to the end credits. Performances and script are made-for-cable grade; Dennis Quaid‘s top-billing may carry some weight on video, but prospects in theaters are slim.
Quaid plays a Texas mortician whose plantation-style home intrigues four high schoolers whose classroom studies of Macbeth and Poe have them primed to see ghosts. (One of the four, Tony Oller‘s Travis, believes he’s had a supernatural encounter in the past, but Bruce Wilkinson‘s screenplay can never figure out why it’s spending time on this piece of backstory.) After seeing shadows of a man and woman in an upstairs window, they sneak in to explore the mansion, where one gets killed and all wind up targets for Quaid’s further pursuit.
What might have been pulpy fun goes limp when it’s clear nobody in the production has any interest in following Quaid’s campy lead. His hammy line readings and occasional Anthony Perkins-style tics (all pretty embarrassing in this setting) aren’t echoed anywhere in Guigui’s pedestrian direction, and the screenplay is too proud of its going-nowhere literary allusions to crack a joke or even wink at the viewer.
Co-star Aimee Teegarden‘s move from Friday Night Lights to damsel in distress serves her poorly here, with Oller the only one of the young actors breathing any life into generic teen dialogue. Production values are competent, though Guigui’s clumsiness with camera movement is one more reason to dread his rumored step into Scorsese’s shoes with a Raging Bull sequel.
Opens: Jan. 6 (Image Entertainment)
Production Companies: BTDARK, Sunset Pictures
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser, Brett Cullen
Director: Martin Guigui
Screenwriter: Bruce Wilkinson
Producer: Ronnie D. Clemmer
Executive producers: Scott Mednick, Bruce Wilkinson
Director of photography: Massimo Zeri
Production designer: Christopher Stull
Music: Geoff Zanelli
Costume designer: Amy Maner
Editor: Eric Potter
Rated R, 95 minutes
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