Lionsgate // 2005 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 20th, 2007
Fear is rising.
This Spanish horror film blends together the genre excesses of Satanic exploitation with the subtle conventions of Christian Slater's Hard Rain.
Forty years ago, the town of Marinbad was overrun with scummy devil worshippers, led by the evil Mordecai Salas (Patrick Gordon). Salas introduced the dark arts to the simpletons of the village, and bit by bit the whole place was enveloped in bad mojo. Eventually, an enterprising town official squelched the Satanism and to make sure the evil stayed put, dammed up the neighboring lake to drown the town.
Now, on the eve of the anniversary of the flooding, evil has resurfaced, and Salas is back, weaving his darkness into the descendants of the man who imprisoned him. Teresa Borgia (Raquel Mereno) and her daughter Clara (Charlotte Salt) find themselves roped into the occult nightmare, and along with Alpha male diver Dan Quarry (Mike McKell), they will try to bring down Salas once and for all.
I suppose if you dig the demonic, occult, devil-worshipping thing, you might get a kick out of Beneath Still Waters, but this laborious trek of a film did little to grab me.
To be fair, the movie picked up steam at about the 45-minute mark, but to get to the nitty-gritty of the Satanism and the death and all the crazy crap that horror fans crave, you'll have to suffer through much talking (with little exposition I might add) and contrived suspense buildups. Eventually, Salas and his sorcery takes center stage and the film goes to some weird and dark places, but I fear that interest in how the story plays out will have subsisted by that point; it did for me at least.
Let's try and keep this review at least fairly positive and look at some of the plusses of the film, before lambasting it any further. First, the affair kicks on a decidedly morbid note. Two young kids wander into Marinbad prior to its submersion and find Salas and his cabal. One of the boys makes the mistake of freeing Salas -- thus setting in motion the events that will come to fruition by the end of the film -- and Salas rewards him by ripping his head off at the jaw. That's hardcore. You rarely see that level of violence inflicted on a child in horror movies. Unfortunately, the film fails to build off this shock and gets mired in character development of characters that aren't very interesting. When the Satanic shenanigans do make a reappearance, it's long-awaited and appreciated. Undead demon zombies start showing up to cause havoc and several people get wasted in unique ways (one lady is swallowed whole by swamp fungus and another guy is levitated and hamstrung by Salas). A few stupid scenes are tossed into the mix as well, the standout being a fully-nude woman about to go skinny-dipping who runs into her dead and decomposing boyfriend and for some reason starts having sex with him until she eventually realizes that he's gross and maggoty.
The sequence everyone will likely be talking about at the water cooler is the wild orgy scenes. At a big party, the evilness of the submerged town somehow makes it out of the depths and starts infecting the party-goers. With their inhibitions evaporated, everyone starts having wild sex with each other and covering their naked bodies in cake frosting. So fans of orgies and baked goods, rejoice, your dream movie is here.
Before I wrap this up, here are a couple of elements that hurt the film for me. One is the CGI work. The traditional make-up effects are actually quite good, but when the computer generated visual effects hit the screen, prepare to be taken right out of the film. These occur when Dan makes his dives to check out the village. All the underwater stuff is CGI as well as some various action shots including the diver. None are believable and look bad even for early '90s work. Secondly, and this is the biggie, the plot just isn't that great. At the one hour mark, you'll get a fistful of exposition in one sitting, a clumsy narrative tactic, but really, Beneath Still Waters is nothing but the typical evil-dude-returns-to-see-revenge dreck. Salas is a bad guy and he looks creepy but his intentions are uninteresting and the protagonists battling against him are one-dimensional fodder.
The DVD stands purely on its tech merits, which are decent: a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby digital surround. No extras hurt.
Beneath Still Waters has its moments and for the hardcore there is some real horror to be found here. A slipshod narrative, crap CGI and unappealing characters, however, bumps the film out of contention for a flat recommendation.
Waterboard this sucker.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R