Something Amiss at the Roadside Motel in Beneath the Dark

Beneath the Dark deserves better than its straight-to-basic-cable title, but not a whole lot better. The directing debut of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane producer Chad Feehan is a head-tripper that starts out slow and finishes . . . lightly exerted. Paul (Josh Stewart) and Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) are driving across the country when a little extracurricular activity lands them in a ditch. Frazzled, they check into a roadside motel run by a sad sack named Frank (Chris Browning). Although the logic of the doubled storylines isn't immediately clear, we also watch a bizarro Frank lose his job as a night watchman, and beg for the affections of his tragic wife, Sandy (an indelible Angela Featherstone). Strange doings at the motel have Paul paranoid—an ominous Christian type (Afemo Omilami) appears to tell him to repent and reveal his past to Adrienne—a jukebox won't stop playing "He's Got the Devil in His Heart," and Sandy keeps crashing his room. Secrets and insurmountable damage between couples come home to roost, but Feehan—who, along with his DP, Jason Blount, has a terrific eye for the eerie—can't sustain the story's sluggish, over-emoted pace across 102 deftly photographed minutes. As a result, the twists—and they are big 'uns—seem to tighten the film, rather than open it up.

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