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Exclusive: Ben Katai and Jeff Fahey Talk Beneath and More

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Exclusive: Ben Katai and Jeff Fahey Talk Beneath and MoreBeneath is a new underground (literally) thriller starring Jeff Fahey as George Marsh, a longtime coal miner who goes down for “one last mission” – and when it comes to movies, you know how those usually go.

Along for the descent into darkness is George’s daughter, Samantha, played by Kelly Noonan, and a slew of soon-to-be-slain coworkers.

Dread Central got the chance to chat with Fahey and the film’s director, Ben Ketai, recently, and the highlights are below.

The first thing I wanted to know was, where was the film shot? It looks like an actual location. Fahey told me that although it looks like a real cave, the entire thing was built on a set.

We were above ground,” he said. “The other part we can act. Sometimes realism helps, but with this, we had so many things to help us get into that mindset.” Such as, working with pretty much nothing but flashlights in otherwise complete darkness. “I definitely got a feeling of being underground. It felt like a cave. It was pretty dark. And dirty.”

When I asked Ketai how this sort of unusual project found him, especially for a feature debut, he said, “It was just luck. It was lucky the script came my way when it did. I had just finished the first season of ‘Chosen,’ and so I had some time to do something different before Season Two. I’d always wanted to do a feature, and [this one was a bonus because] shooting claustrophobia is a real challenge to a filmmaker.” What’s more, “This script was already so well developed; the characters were all there on the page.”

Fahey agreed the script was super-tight. It was the development of the characters and “the psychological aspect” that made him take notice. After all, lots of scripts come his way. So for him it was the fact that “you saw him [George] unwinding. You have the horror and intensity and tension, without gore.” Also, he liked the relationship between the father and daughter.

The most well-known name in the cast is Jeff Fahey. He got the role because he was right for it and not on his name, and still – Ketai was a fan. “I’d never met him before, but I have been an admirer since I saw Lawnmower Man when I was 12 years old. It was so cool to sit down with him over lunch. We had a three-hour conversation about everything but the movie! But then when we got down to business, he brought it. He’s such a cool guy and a real pro. He knows how to create a character from the inside out. When he was on set, his energy and his passion inspired the whole cast and crew.

In turn, Fahey admires his director. “The vision of Ben is very clear: He created it and carried it through, which isn’t easy. We shot mostly in sequence, and the whole story takes place in less than 48 hours.

Ketai told me, “I was able to cast this myself. Since it was an indie, we [the producers and I] could pick who we wanted. We wanted the most effective cast possible,” not necessarily star power or a big name. “We went through a real casting process. It’s rare I ever get to do that. We read several actors, got to mix and match for chemistry… It was refreshing.

When I asked Ketai what is was like to work in the shadow of other claustrophobic horror movies such as Alien, Panic Room, and The Descent, he said it’s a welcome challenge to find the balance between what’s tried and true, and works, but also bringing something new, and of himself, to the mix.

It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “We like nods to the best and being different. We definitely looked at Alien and The Descent again, knowing there would be comparisons, especially to The Descent. We didn’t want to stray too far from formula, but we did create our own camera language and the lighting design. I strove to make Beneath an immersive, real-life experience. When you watch it – and let me say, I love it; it’s one my favorite horror movies – you will see The Descent has movie lights. Our film is 90% natural light. My DP came up with the most innovative ways to light with actual flashlights.

Beneath is out TODAY via VOD and iTunes, Amazon, and Xbox Live. Netflix and Redbox availability will come later on down the road.

Synopsis
A crew of coal miners becomes trapped 600 feet below ground after a disastrous collapse. As the air grows more toxic and time runs out, they slowly descend into madness and begin to turn on one another. Inspired by true events.



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Staci Layne Wilson