Review by Sean Boelman
Co-written and directed by Max Pachman, Beneath Us is a new socially-conscious horror-thriller that very obviously hopes to be the Get Out for the undocumented immigrant crisis. However, despite all the good intentions in the world, this film lacks the insight (and the bite) to measure up against similar movies.
The film follows a group of undocumented day laborers as they are hired for a well-paying job by a wealthy couple only to find themselves being brutally tormented by their employers. Unfortunately, despite this intriguing concept, writers Pachman and Mark Mavrothalasitis rely too much on tired genre tropes for much of the movie’s conflict.
Ultimately, Pachman and Mavrothalasitis want to say something about the exploitation of the immigrant workforce, and for the most part, they say it. However, there is a lot more nuance to this discussion than can be explored in a single horror film. While all of the claims that the movie makes are very true, there’s also another party (the government) to blame in this situation.
That said, the single biggest issue with the film is its dialogue. This is where the perspective of the writers really comes into play. Both of the movie’s writers are caucasian, yet much of the film’s dialogue is in Spanish. It almost feels like the movie was written in English and translated into Spanish, as many lines feel like things that aren’t commonly said in the Latinx population.
The film also needed some additional work in terms of character development. With only four lead characters, one would think that there would be plenty of time to develop them each and make the audience sympathize with them more naturally. Instead, the movie forces in a generic backstory for the characters that doesn’t do much to make them stand out.
Furthermore, the chemistry of the actors doesn’t really sell the dynamic between them. Although the performers all seem very strong on an individual level, they don’t really come together in a believable way. The relationship between the characters isn’t particularly well-written, and there simply isn’t enough between the actors to keep the film afloat.
The movie’s one major success is that it does a solid job of building suspense. The production design, while minimalistic, is good, and the cinematography is able to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Additionally, the film features some brief but gruesome practical effects that are very impactful.
Beneath Us obviously wants to be something more intelligent than it is, but the script is too underdeveloped to be more than a passive horror flick. Although they have good intentions, maybe Pachman and Mavrothalasitis should have left the commentary on the immigrant crisis to the population affected by it the most.
Beneath Us opens in theaters on March 6.