Beneath Us Movie Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Released by Vital Pictures
Directed by Max Pachman
Written by Max Pachman and Mark Mavrothalasitis
2020, 90 minutes, Rated R
Lynn Collins as Liz Rhodes
Rigo Sanches as Alejandro
Jose Aguirre as Memo
Roberto Sanchez as Hector
Academic peer reviewed journals do this thing called a “revise and resubmit.” A revise and resubmit basically says, “Hey, this is somewhat decent and the ideas you touch on are worth exploring, but there are things either lacking or wrong with it that make us take a pass on it as is.” Max Pachman’s latest movie, Beneath Us, gets a revise and resubmit.
In Beneath Us, actors Diego Sanchez and Josue Aguirre play a couple of undocumented brothers looking to make a living working random gigs they find on the streets or at the parking lot of their local Home Depot. One day they get picked up with two other men and taken to a mansion so they can finish a guest house for a rich couple. Instead of scoring a paycheck, they end up trapped in that place by a sadistic couple who subject them to horrible things.
Okay, listen, this could have been great. The topic it deals with is incredibly timely, the use of Spanish is superb (even if the actors have weird accents), and some of the violence is well done. The movie also has decent production values and most of the performances are solid. However, the film barely scratches the surface of migration, undocumented workers, and racism. The saddest thing is that the first third of the movie sets things up nicely and that builds up both hope and expectations. For example, the older brother has a wife and a kid back in Mexico and Pachman uses him briefly as a vehicle to remind people that immigration isn’t about politics, it’s about people. We see his love for his son and his desire to make money to bring his family over and we can’t help but side with him. Unfortunately, that’s about it. Once one of the workers injures his hand, the madness begins and any semblance of a strong, sharp political discourse vanishes like fog under the Texas sun.
Putting migrants in a movie doesn’t mean it makes a political statement. Neither does making the perfect white couple the bad guys. In Beneath Us, these two things try to carry the weight of everything, and they fail a it. For starters, there is no real statement being made. Also, the evil woman who picks the workers up, played by Lynn Collins, is one of the most cartoonishly ridiculous villains in recent horror movie history. From her face and femme fatale moves to her psychotic killing of mice in the kitchen and subsequent murder of a man with her heel, every second she spends on the screen pushes this movie closer to a comedy than to a horror film, and not in a good way.
Movies don’t have to contain a message. However, if they try to have one and fail, they end up looking like vapid attempts at something that was obviously either half-thought or, worse, they look like something that was concocted in an attempt to use a timely topic to make a buck. That said, I don’t think that’s what Pachman was going for here. The delicate way in which the third part of the film is constructed tells me that there was a decent idea somewhere at the start and then they tragically lost their way. So yeah, revise and resubmit. This could be timely and remarkable. It could be the kind of movie that becomes a political statement. Sadly, it’s none of that in its present form. In its present form this is a mediocre film with decent production values that’s flat and forgettable.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.