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The Blood Stream: Beneath Loch Ness

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the blood stream - The Blood Stream: Beneath Loch NessThe Blood Stream mines the Internet for horror gold so you don’t have to, delivering streamable horror titles never before featured on Dread Central. Occasionally I’ll dredge up something good, maybe even great. To find those gems, I’ll have to sift through a lot of breathtakingly bad cinema. Enjoy!

Beneath Loch Ness has all the trappings of a Syfy original movie, though as far as I can tell that’s not how it came into existence. It has a plot built from half-assed homage and blatant rip-offs, obviously fake “location” settings, a Princess Bride synth score, and a list of B-movie has-beens longer than Nessie’s tail.

The framework here is basically a knock off of Jaws (of course it is), complete with a dopey local official who opposes preventing further deaths because it’s tourist season. The big difference is in this one, the incident that kicks things off is the accidental drowning of the protagonist’s mentor, which is intended to add a layer of personal investment but ultimately goes nowhere. Also, instead of a shark there’s a dinosaur.

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There’s are elements of The Abyss here, too, with all the underwater scenes and Lite-Brite sonar readouts. (NOTE: None of this was actually filmed underwater. The actors just move their arms really slowly to simulate being submerged.) And just like The Abyss, the two main characters are exes. She’s become a ball-busting corporate muckity muck while he’s still working in the trenches, blue collar firmly on display at all times. How can they possibly work together when they’re so different!

And finally there’s a dash of Braveheart, because Scotland. Someone actually comments on it in the movie so maybe it’s supposed to get a laugh. Either way, seeing a guy don blue face paint and a scuba helmet to do battle with a sea monster felt like doing drugs.

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Really think about it before you add Beneath Loch Ness to your Netflix queue.

As is common in low-budget horror set in foreign lands, there are two kinds of location sets in Beneath Loch Ness. There are lovely stock footage shots of actual Scotland, and, far more frequently, there are scenes filmed in what appears to be Lake Tahoe. Exotic! And keep an eye out for the green screen train station one lucky character gets to stand in front of. I would have given anything if she had started running in place as the platform receded into the background.

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And the cast. Oh, the cast. Top billing goes to Patrick Bergin, who has one of those familiar sounding names you think you recognize until you realize you’re thinking of Corbin Bernsen. What’s crazy is Bergin isn’t even the lead. He plays a side character named Blay, a traumatized former military man with an ax to grind who is totally not at all like Robert Shaw’s Quint. Bergin’s above-the-title billing then is a result of, what, his star-making turn as the non-Sean Bean terrorist in Patriot Games? Playing the enemy in Sleeping With the Enemy?

Our hero is Brian Wimmer, who played Boonie the lifeguard in “China Beach” and did virtually nothing else of note before or after. His boss/sparring partner/love interest is named, no joke, Lizzie Borden. WHAT.

Interestingly, the actress who plays Lizzie was the young rising star who landed the lead in the much-hyped disaster Krull> 20 years prior. Aside from Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, the end credits of that movie read like a memorial to failed careers and shattered dreams.

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My personal favorite is the local constable – the one who keeps trying to put the researchers in jail for no reason. He’s played by Vernon Wells, a/k/a Wez in The Road Warrior. You know, the dude with the assless chaps and the mohawk? That guy! A few years after facing Mel Gibson’s Max, he turned up again as a crazy-eyed fat guy in chainmail who some idiot thought would be a match for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando. This man has had a storied action movie career despite being an absolute hack.

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I have to believe Wells was wasted while filming Beneath Loch Ness. Not only does he slip in and out of his native Australian accent from moment to moment (no one in the movie is actually Scottish so you hardly notice), he can’t even manage to pronounce his fellow characters’ names consistently. He literally calls Bergin’s character “Blay” and “Bly” in the same sentence. That is an impressive commitment to phoning it in.

You’ll notice I didn’t rip on the CG creature effects. While the monster in Beneath Loch Ness is fairly crude, the overall design is solid. It’s rooted in common notions of what prehistoric creatures should look like, but with a splash of artistic license, especially around the eyes and teeth. More importantly, it has a nice fluidity of motion. Most CG creatures done on the cheap look cartoony when they have to move and interact with actors and props. The monster in Beneath Loch Ness moves organically. While I can’t be certain who was responsible for that, first (only) time director Chuck Comisky is a well known VFX guy who worked on visually striking films such as Blade, Last Action Hero and The Crow. He’s also done a bunch of work on James Cameron projects, including Avatar. He couldn’t direct actors to save his life and he knows only one kind of transition (Dissolve! Dissolve EVERYTHING!) but he appears to have an eye for digital effects.

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Alas, a marginally interesting creature design isn’t nearly enough. You should not watch this movie. It’s not offensively bad, just boring. A movie about the impossibly awesome Loch Ness Monster should either go big in a good way or go big in the really, really bad way. Nessie is too iconic for banal, lifeless crap like this.

Instead, kick back and watch Grabbers. It, too, fails to live up to the movie it apes (Tremors) but it gets a damn sight closer than Beneath Loch Ness does to Jaws.

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