There’s something just so deliciously foreign about the films that come out of Brian Yuzna’s Spain-based Fantastic Factory collective. It’s not just the fact that they’re shot in Spain with mostly Spanish actors – that would be far too obvious (although it helps). I don’t mean foreign in terms of nationality, but actually in terms of their place in today’s horror film. Films like “The Nun” and “Romasanta”, they seem as though they’d somehow crawled out of some mid-eighties Italian Horror time capsule, complete with the bad dubbing, reckless disregard for plot coherency, and laughable dialogue, yet, for those very same reasons, I enjoyed those films. They were completely pointless exercises in style over substance, and served as little more than an excuse to thread together gory scene after gory scene, but damnit if they didn’t do it with an atmospheric aesthetic that would do the masters of Italian horror proud.
The latest offering from the Factory is “Beneath Still Waters”, based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Costello, and helmed by Yuzna, himself. The tale focuses on a prosperous town celebrating the anniversary of its existence – an existence that came about after the construction of a dam that led to the flooding of a mysteriously deserted town a half-a-century earlier. As the celebration draws near, strange events prompt a freelance photographer and a local reporter to investigate the controversial history of the dam’s construction, and discover the horrifying secret of the denizens of the town that rests at the bottom of the lake.
Beneath Still Waters has an “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” quality to it that betrays its origins as a novel, as it feels as though Yuzna went out of his way to try and get every nuance of the book onscreen. Sadly, as we all know, novels can only be adapted so faithfully, and most often filmmakers have to abandon characters, subplots, and plot points in an effort to whittle down the source material into an effective story. While I’ve not read the book upon which this film is based, I just don’t get the impression that Yuzna and company made any such attempt at “downsizing” the material as numerous, barely fleshed-out characters are thrown at us, along with their vaguely realized motivations and back-stories, making for even less developed central protagonists, and a truly uninspired bad guy who looks like a cross between “Phantasm’s” Tall Man and Klaus Kinski in an fright wig.
Yet, strangely enough, I still had fun with Beneath Still Waters. It’s got loads or gore, some choice nudity, and is never boring. It’s also pretty competently made, with nice special effects (save for some truly bad underwater footage), and lots of creepy atmosphere. Sure, it lacks even the most fundamental elements that make for a good movie, but it has just the right mix of ingredients to make for a really good BAD movie, including a batshit-insane orgy reminiscent of Yuzna's "Society".
Lionsgate releases Beneath Still Waters with nary an extra, save for trailers for other Lionsgate flicks.