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Something Beneath (DVD)

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Something Beneath DVD Review(click for larger image)Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Kevin Sorbo, Natalie Brown, Peter MacNeil, Brendan Beiser and Brittany Scobie

Directed by David Winning

Distributed by Genius Products


Something Beneath opens with a construction worker building a posh resort hotel coming into contact with a mysterious black oil-like substance oozing up from the ground. The worker almost immediately begins having a terrifying hallucination of a rival coworker he’s got personal issues with trying to run him down with a bulldozer. The hallucination ends up causing the man to fall to his death onto some spikes sticking up from the ground. Several of his coworkers gather around, see their friend impaled to death, and begin talking about this man’s sudden demise in a manner comparable to that of some teenage stoners having run out of weed or been denied use of their parents’ car that evening. I’m shocked one of these seemingly aloof construction workers didn’t actually use the word “bummer” to describe this tragic death. This opening sequence certainly sets the tone for the film to come.

This latest Sci-Fi Channel original movie felt like it had the makings of a pretty good serious-minded horror flick, but serious-minded horror flicks are not the Sci-Fi Channel’s forte. Instead what we have is a mildly enjoyable bit of hokum that feels more like an extended episode of PSI Factor (I dare not equate this schlock to the level of making an X-Files comparison), or given how cornball it becomes at times, a feature-length Baywatch Nights movie based on the second season of that series when Hasselhoff tried to turn the show into an X-Files monster-of-the-week program.

Yeah, Baywatch Nights season two definitely sprung to mind as I watched this. Instead of “The Hoff” unconvincingly doing battle with some supernatural oogedy boogedy we get former TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo miscast as the least credible priest in recent memory battling hallucinogenic slime. Sorbo’s performance is vintage Sorbo and by that I mean that Kevin Sorbo, regardless of the role he’s in, always comes across as just Kevin Sorbo playing Kevin Sorbo.

The filmmakers clearly realized the implausibility of this casting choice and had the foresight of having someone else in the movie tell him early on that he wasn’t like any other priest they’d ever met. That someone happens to be a pretty brunette who works as a coordinator at the finished mountainside retreat hotel celebrating its grand opening by having Father Hercules host some big environmental conference. The screenwriters also thought to toss in a Thorn Birds joke as well since there’s an awful lot of sexual tension going on between this priest and the pretty brunette who happens to look a bit like Rachel Ward. It’s okay though; he’s an Episcopalian priest, not Catholic, so sexual tension is hunky dory so long as there’s no hanky panky prior to marriage.

An environmental scientist had told the greedy wheelchair-bound developer that he shouldn’t build the hotel on the land because of some strange findings he’d come across. Of course, greedy wheelchair-bound developers in b-movies never listen to dire warnings, so scientist guy got ignored, the project went through anyway, and killer slime from god knows has now begun bubbling up, infecting hotel patrons, and causing them to essentially kill themselves while experiencing horrifying hallucinations of a dopey made-for-television variety. How hokey are these hallucinations? The script is written in such a manner that a character has childhood flashback to the time when they were threatened by a wolf just so that minutes later when they get infected we’ll understand why their scary visions involve being chased by an identical wolf.

In typical b-movie fashion, even after patrons begin turning up dead and black ooze starts pouring out of the plumbing, that greedy old bastard still won’t shut the place down and evacuate the patrons. That’s why it’s up to Kull the Conqueror and his future bride to make like Mulder & Scully, occasionally interrupting their encounters with the unknown for some quality time flirtations and sporadic discussions of spirituality, whether it be of his Christian variety or that of her own Native American ancestry.

Wildly uneven doesn’t even being to explain the film’s tone; you got the primary leads playing it straight while most of the victims are portrayed and quite enthusiastically played as broad stereotypes, primarily for laughs. Kind of hard to generate scares when the victim is a vapid, video-blogging, Paris Hilton-like celebutante who constantly whines like a spoiled brat, or, for that matter, when the victim is a socially inept geek with asthma who sucks on his inhaler almost as much as a scuba diver does their oxygen mask.

No one takes it more over the top than that of that environmentalist scientist dude. Like most scientists who have had their environmental impact study ignored and covered up by corporate nogoodnicks, he’ll turn out to be a complete oddball who’ll go so far as to set up a hidden research lab on the grounds of the very place he’s trying to prove unsafe. I can only compare watching this comically erratic wacko of a character in action to that of a young Artie Johnson playing a mad scientist dressed like one of the McKenzie brothers from Strange Brew.

The ultimate revelation of exactly what that something beneath actually is proves rather nifty, but the way in which it is ultimately defeated is nothing short of groan-inducing. I must also protest the ooze’s inconsistent potency: for some a single drop is all that’s needed to immediately begin freaking out, others can get splattered and don’t feel the effects until it becomes convenient for the screenplay, and another gets infected only to have the effects where off as soon as a certain priest comes to their rescue. Heck, Sorbo himself will suffer a hallucination near the end and I don’t recall them ever showing him coming into contact with the slick. I was also profoundly disappointed with the fate of a character shown playing the video game House of the Dead who tells a friend the zombies in the game remind him of the teaching nuns at the Catholic school he attended growing up; his later hallucinations involve being chased by zombies and not mean-looking nuns, preferably wielding giant rulers.

I will say that the tone of the script constantly changing from straightforward to cheesetastic actually helps keep things lively, and the direction, though a resounding failure when it comes to generating suspense, does keep things slipping and sliding along at a brisk enough pace so that Something Beneath – for all its failings – never comes across as a complete failure. This is the sort of cheesy b-movie that you’d never want to pay to see but should you happen upon it on the TV, there are far worse ways to kill two hours, especially if you’re watching the Sci-Fi Channel.

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    2 1/2 out of 5

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    DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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    Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

    Directed by Adrian Corona


    I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

    Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

    Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

    Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

    If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

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    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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    Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

    Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


    “Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

    That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

    Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

    At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

    These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

    Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

    It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

    If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

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    The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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    Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

    Directed by Guillermo del Toro


    “True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

    The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

    The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

    Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

    The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

    While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

    Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

    The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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