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‘They Crawl Beneath’ (review)

Let’s get it out of the way right at the start: They Crawl Beneath at first blush looks like a blatant swipe of Tremors, the seminal 1990 monster movie. The rural desert, earthquakes, gruff male bonding and oh yeah, the sandworm monsters that look and behave identically to the “graboids” of that film.

Comparisons are inevitable and this film will only suffer under them: Tremors is a modern horror classic and They Crawl Beneath is a quickie creature feature.

Joseph Alamani plays Danny, an ordinary guy who becomes trapped in his garage when a massive earthquake strikes town while he and his father (Michael Parè) are admiring his classic ‘69 Mustang. The car pins him down by the leg and out of the ground fissure sandworm monsters appear, and so Danny is trapped, injured, and under siege.

That’s the set up to what could be a tremendous low-budget horror film, but They Crawl Beneath has the classic enemy of the low budget horror film: boring exposition needed to fill the allotted running time.

The film almost borrows the conceit of the James Franco film 127 Hours where a surprising amount of the run time is given over to the main character’s reflecting on his relationships and such instead of the deadly game of cat and mouse he’s playing with the monster underneath him.

Couple that with more than one truly ridiculous “but it was all a dream” fake out scares and you have the worst kind of movie: a thriller that should be as lithe and stripped down as a marathon runner with too much flab even for its very short run time. The claustrophobic setting and tight focus should have been supported by a clever script filled with moves and counter moves between man and monster but alas, clever writing is rare and flashbacks are common and a good movie is reduced to merely being okay.

I rag on bad computer effects so many times that I feel compelled to congratulate the filmmakers on their commitment to practical effects for the monsters which, while they don’t always look great, at least have some weight and reality to them. In a film with such a small cast where so much of the work is going to be carried by just a couple actors reacting, it’s really essential that the monsters feel like a threat and I think the filmmakers did a fine job with obviously limited resources.

I don’t want to slag on the acting for a low budget horror movie, but while Paré is great with limited time and Almani puts in a game effort, the rest of the cast feels like they’re acting in slow motion or that they’ve never acted for a film before. First-time filmmaker Fabrigar seems like a fine director of action and its obvious that this was a production of limited means and time but this isn’t a slasher movie where all the humans are just chum in the water for a guy in a mask– the only way the movie is going to grab us is if we care about Danny and the world he inhabits and the ensemble as a whole (excluding Paré and Almani) let the film down.

Not recommended. It has spirit, but needs a little more time and craft.

** out of *****

*  * *  *  *
Produced by Suzanne DeLaurentiis, Jimmy V. Glover, 
Kevin Goetz, Neil Goetz, Stephen Hornyak
Written by Tricia Aurand
Directed by Dale Fabrigar
Starring Joseph Almani, Karlee Eldridge, Michael Paré,
Arthur Roberts, Elena Sahagun



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