Beneath the Surface, the new film from directors Scott Jeffrey and Rebecca Matthews, the team that gave us The Gardener, Exorcist Vengeance and so many others, begins with scenes of a shark attacking a man and his two daughters . It’s a flashback, one of the many that Lexy (Georgie Banks, It Came from Below, Cupid) has about it.
The film then goes back three month to South Africa and the inquest into the accident that led to her, her father Bill (Jamie Robertson, Medusa, The Mutation) and sister Chloe (Annie Knox, Pandamonium, Foetal) being in the water and attacked by sharks. Lexy being the only one of the three to survive long enough to be rescued by her boyfriend Isaac (Matthew Marcelis, Camerawoman) and stepmother Vicky (Stephanie Lodge, Rise of the Mummy, Don’t Speak).
None of that is a spoiler, because Beneath the Surface isn’t a killer shark movie, despite a poster that would indicate otherwise. Instead it starts out as a drama about Lexy and her battle with survivor’s guilt, depression, and other mental issues. That’s probably not what anyone sitting down expecting a Jaws knock off wants. It’s not what anyone wants really because it’s dull as hell lacking even the offbeat approach to the material that made From the Depths take on the same subject so interesting.
Eventually Lexy’s friend Amy (Beatrice Fletcher, The Legend of Jack and Jill, Summoning Bloody Mary) convinces her to see a therapist Dr. Goodman (Nicola Wright, The Jack in the Box: Awakening, Amityville Scarecrow) despite Isaac and Vicky’s objections. At this point Beneath the Surface shifts gears again as the sessions unlock memories of that night. Memories that indicate what happened may not have been accidental.
The problem is, it’s fairly obvious even before Lexy’s first session what happened. After the session there’s no doubt at all. The script by first time feature writer Paul W. Franklin is incredibly clumsy and obvious. What are supposed to be hints and suggestions are more like large red flags. When a woman is dropping to her knees and reaching for a guy’s belt buckle only for him to say he’s too tired, you know something is seriously wrong. And that’s actually one of the film’s more subtle incidents.
There are also serious issues with the direction by Jeffrey and Matthews. They’re not what anyone would call great directors, or even consistently good ones. But while several of their more recent films have shown a lot of improvement Beneath the Surface is a mess. The shark attack scenes are almost laughably bad. They’re obviously shot in a studio tank and have no tension at all to them, even The Requin had better attack scenes.
The scenes on dry land don’t fare any better. The attempts at drama are flat and dull and it doesn’t get any better when Beneath the Surface changes up and goes for suspense. Apart from the fact that you’ll have guessed everything by then, nobody’s actions are the least bit believable. Even the question of whether or not Lexy survives didn’t create any tension because by that point I just didn’t care.
Beneath the Surface is a misfire on just about every level. The shark attack sequences aren’t scary. The scenes dealing with Lexy’s mental issues don’t feel realistic or even dramatic and the film’s thriller aspects are dead on arrival. This is the kind of film we were seeing from Jeffrey and company a couple of years ago, and as such, is a major step backwards.
Beneath the Surface is available on VOD and Digital platforms from Devilworks. You can check their Facebook page for more information.