**½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A
starring Daniel Zovatto, Bonnie Dennison, Chris Conroy, Jonny Orsini, Mark Margolis
screenplay by Tony Daniel & Brian D. Smith
directed by Larry Fessenden
by Walter Chaw Between producing films for promising newcomers (Ti West and Jim Mickle among them), acting in movies like You're Next, and of course directing his own quartet of exceptional, loaded fright flicks (Habit, No Telling, Wendigo, The Last Winter), Larry Fessenden, quietly, surely, has become perhaps the most important independent voice in horror. He seems interested in the sociology of the genre, in how it's very much the "indicator species" in the cinematic swamp--how it, more than any other genre, has the potential to pull back the curtain. It's not just the affection for genre--and deconstruction is never the end goal--but also the understanding and reworking of the basic tenets of genre that distinguishes Fessenden's work from disrespectful "post-modern" bullshit like Cabin in the Woods. It never feels as though he's slumming (as it did when Coppola and Branagh dabbled in horror); his subtext remains subtext, his perspective is always the victim's rather than the bully's. His own take on the Spam-in-a-cabin/monster-in-the-lake concept, Beneath, showcases that intelligence, even as its energy--particularly when held against his last four films--flags through most of a soft introduction. But what it loses there it makes up for in spades in a piece that ultimately feels a great deal in mood and tone like Stephen King's short story "The Raft." For a child of the Eighties who devoured King's Skeleton Crew upon publication, there can be no higher praise.