Beneath the Surface DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee


DVD released by Well Go Usa


I don't think this is one of those "back to the drawing board" situations. We ain't got a plan B. We aren't leaving without a corpse. – Eric


Written and directed by Blake Reigle
2007, Region 1, 94 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 7th, 2008

Kyle Stanley as Ethan
Dominique Geisendorff as Kahlah
Christian Munden as Eric
Brett Lawrence as Shane
Jerry Schumacher as Shane's father
Gloria Grant as Angelica



When I review a low-budget movie, I always into the first viewing with high hopes and looking for one thing: Some type of originality. I don't care if it's an original script, story, shot, I don't care. Just give me something new. As I've mentioned ad nauseum, I don't expect certain things from low-budget movies. Things like strong acting, special effects and exotic locations normally don't come into the equation, but if it has originality and love, a low-budget film can be just as entertaining as a Hollywood blockbuster on its own merits. So what do I when I'm handed a low-budget movie with none of the things I expect? In the case of Beneath the Surface, I just suffer through it.

Surface's story is so completely predictable, it's frightening. Our hero Ethan, emo and comic book reader, crushes on the high school beauty Kahlah. Of course she is dating Shane, the school jock, thus out of reach for young Ethan. But wait! Kahlah and Ethan have been friends since they were babies, and Kahlah takes it upon herself to renew the two's friendship. We are presented with a montage — the first of two — of Kahlah and Ethan reconnecting. Of course Shane isn't too keen on the idea of his woman hanging about with an emo (and, really, who is?) and it doesn't help that she's not giving up the booty. So Shane does what every jock his age does — he slips her some E to get to the V.

Kahlah's inevitable death (surprise!) is ruled a suicide — with a little help by Shane's powerful and influential father (surprise!). Using some voodoo mojo, Ethan, along with his pal Eric, dig up Kahlah and bring her back to life in order to get her to point the finger at Shane. (Ethan has been house watching for an anthropologist who was an expert in voodoo and zombification, so everything he needed was conveniently at hand.) The problem, though, is Kahlah has come back as a zombie slave — she'll take all of Ethan's orders, save the most important one: Identify Shane as her killer. It's up to Ethan and Eric to try to get the truth out of Kahlah — with, of course, another montage. Jesus Christ.


Surface suffers from a lot of problems, but its biggest by far is the film doesn't quite know what it wants to be. One thing it most definitely isn't is horror. Sure the film has a zombie, but there's very little blood. It might be a comedy (there are some attempts at humor in the mix), but it's not always funny. Drama, maybe. The closest it comes to anything, though, is a teen angst movie for emos, but the problem is, nobody likes emos (except, maybe, other emos).

Another issue is you don't want to root for the main character of the film when he is a whiny, pathetic, My-Chemical-Romance-listening-to clown. I wanted this guy to get his ass kicked the moment I saw his black-ringed puppy dog eyes. A main character with sexual identity issues and a movie that has genre identity issues is not a good combo. It doesn't help that Kyle Stanley — the actor playing Emo Ethan — has no emotion. Well, he might in real life, but his acting is completely void of emotion, and the film suffers even more because of this. Every line is delivered the same way, dry and evenly pitched. The only time his tone changed is when Kahlah rose from the dead, and then he raised his voice in "excitement."

Fortunately, though, there are two saving graces in this film: Christian Munden and Dominique Geisendorff. Playing Eric and Kahlah respectively, these two cats make the film almost bearable. Eric is the cool, funny sidekick to Ethan's pathetic existence, and Munden handles it with ease. It's unfortunate that the Eric and Ethan roles were not swapped, as Munden has the skills to carry the movie, and the Eric character is leagues more likeable than Ethan. Geisendorff's is instantly loveable the first time you see her onscreen, and she doesn't disappoint when she delivers her lines. She's completely natural in the role, and you have no problems buying her innocent school girl charm.

Sadly, though, as good as they are, neither Munden nor Geisendorff are enough can save a movie lacking any originality.

Video and Audio:

The widescreen 1.85:1 presentation is typical of a low-budget production. The darker shots get a little blurry, and there seems to be some light edge enhancement throughout. It's neither mind blowing nor poor, simply adequate.

The 5.1 audio, though, is all over the place. Sloppy sound editing forces you to keep your remote handy. Some outside scenes become almost inaudible and just about any time the soundtrack kicks in sans any dialogue, it comes in entirely too loud.

Dolby digital 2.0 is also offered.


Special Features:

  • Director's Commentary
  • Beneath the Movie: Outtakes and Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Braedon Flynn Photo Album
  • Trustkill Records Music Videos

It's hard to listen to a commentary to a movie you barely made it through the first time, especially when a lot of it is writer/director Blake Riegle either praising the actors or the crew or explaining what is happening onscreen. While there are interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits sprinkled throughout, it's not quite enough to recommend unless you really dug the film.

The 10-minute blooper reel is fun (like most blooper reels are) at least once.

The deleted scenes are better left on the cutting room floor (although the end of one had a funny line from Eric that wouldn't have killed the movie).

Rounding it out is a photo gallery and three music videos: Crash Romeo's "Popular", StoneRider's "Juice Man" and Throwdown's "Holy Roller."


Movie: 1.5 Stars
Video: 2.5 Stars
Audio: 1.5 Stars
Features: 3 stars
Overall: 2 Stars

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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