Directed by: Dale Fabrigar
Distributed by: Well Go USA
Written by Nick McCann
As filmmaking has gone on, practical effects-driven monster movies in particular have become seldom seen. With the refinement and continuing affordability of CGI technology, lower-budget analog horror is nearly a dying art. Had it not been for some dedicated people in the industry, we still wouldn’t have these retro feelings. For all that, however, there is a difference between intent and execution. This movie, for example, has some nice intent but can’t quite hold up on its own.
“They Crawl Beneath” is what happens when “Cujo” and “Tremors” had a one-night stand that ultimately proved incompatible. While I’m certainly not against being trapped in one place with a character that has to overcome as many emotions as he does underground poison worms, the directing and story I feel don’t justify the limited scope. The writing quickly proves itself awkward with illogical character choices, occasional tonal breakage, and unengaging pacing. It gets slightly better when the monsters show up, but the narrative backbone again isn’t strong enough.
It doesn’t help that the acting is wooden and over the top in places. Joseph Almani is our trapped lead and he tries too hard to act injured. He’s either too calm about gnarly injuries or breathes way too intensely through his teeth (a sound that quickly grates on the ears). That’s just a couple of components of an unbelievable performance. The other characters came off as stock and didn’t invest me in their stories. Michael Paré stands out on his fame alone. His role seemed stretched to me but he looks comfortable with the shoddy material and delivers bland dialog somewhat convincingly.
The film does boast a majority use of practical creature effects. And for the limited budget, they look fine enough as they get flung around and sport okay designs. Their mechanics are kept in check, acting consistently like they’ve been set up in the story. What could’ve boosted their presence is better editing, which cuts a little too frequently in places to get a decent look at them. That’s with the already dim lighting of the set. Of course, there is some CGI as well and although it fills in the gaps, it still doesn’t look good. The movie does deliver on the slimy and gooey critters when they wriggle out of the corners.
Although the chief selling point is followed through on, “They Crawl Beneath” falls short just about everywhere else. Some neat-looking monster puppets can’t make up for bland writing, uninteresting pacing, and stiff acting. This whole movie would’ve been better suited to being the first act of a larger adventure. As it stands, there isn’t that much conviction in the material to contain the story like this. A lot of it does make for good riffing fuel if you got some company with you. But at the end of the day, you’d be much better off checking out this movie’s inspirations.
“They Crawl Beneath” Trailer