Beneath the Dark -- Film Review

The hapless characters in this turgid supernatural thriller apparently found the Bates and Overlook lodgings already booked.

Considering the endless cinematic horrors that have occurred in them for decades, it's a wonder that anyone goes near remote roadside motels anymore.

The central characters in Beneath the Dark must not be horror-film aficionados because they happily check into the creepiest lodgings since the Bates Motel.

Originally showcased at festivals under the similarly bland title Wake, Chad Feehan's debut feature -- he produced the little-seen cult item All the Boys Love Mandy Lane -- revolves around the travails of Paul (Josh Stewart) and girlfriend Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) after their desert road trip is interrupted by a vehicular mishap.

Forced to spend the night at Roy's Motel and Cafe, they soon experience a series of odd events, including Paul's encounters with a mysterious stranger (Afemo Omilami, billed in the credits only as "The Man") who offers him portentous advice about coming to terms with a guilty secret from his past while the song "He's Got the Devil in His Heart" (get it?) keeps playing on the jukebox.

An alternate plot line involves a series of flashbacks detailing the troubled relationship between creepy motel manager Roy (Chris Browning) and his wife, Sandy (Angela Featherstone), which eventually ties in to Paul's checkered past.

The filmmaker strives mightily to create a suitable quasi-supernatural eeriness, but his efforts are defeated by the convoluted story line, sluggish pacing and a general "been there, seen that" feeling induced by the proceedings. Although boasting strongly atmospheric visuals and effective performances, Darknever rises above a general level of murkiness.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 5 (IFC Films)
Production: The Fort
Cast: Josh Stewart, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Chris Browning, Angela Featherstone, Afemo Omilami, Trevor Morgan
Director-screenwriter: Chad Feehan
Producers: Chad Feehan, Amanda Micallef, Lea-Beth Shapiro
Executive producer: Luke Vitale
Director of photography: Jason Blount
Production designer: Manuel Perez Pena
Editor: Michael Griffin
Costume designer: Emily Batson
Rated R, 102 minutes