Dennis Quaid’s usual aw-shucks decency gets subverted in his role as Ely Vaughn, Beneath the Darkness‘s seemingly upstanding small-town Texas mortician who, obviously, is actually a closet psychopath since he smiles all the time, smokes electronic cigarettes, and wears sweater vests. Unfortunately for Quaid, director Martin Guigui’s pathetic thriller doesn’t even have the pulse-pounding excitement of a second-tier Scooby-Doo mystery. A group of teens led by brooding bore Travis (Tony Oller) and obligatory cheerleader love interest Abby (Aimee Teegarden) notice one night that the recently widowed Vaughn is cavorting with a ghostly figure in his home and set about getting to the bottom of things. Naturally, this means the Revealing of Buried Secrets—and not just those of Vaughn, but also Travis, whose sister’s death years earlier has left him withdrawn and cursed with a laughably emo haircut. Because Vaughn’s murderous predilection is established from the get-go, Beneath the Darkness is one long waiting game as Travis and his crew of dullards determine just exactly how evil and creepy he is. This allows for plenty of time to observe Quaid in benign-madman mode, which forces him to try to compensate for a thorough lack of menace by blinking a lot. It’s not particularly scary, though it does create the rather humorous impression that he has an allergic reaction to the film he’s in. Can you blame him?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 4, 2012