“They Crawl Beneath” on Blu-ray Home Video from Well Go USA!
After a near-death experience, Danny finds himself living on his profligate uncle’s couch when his family-desiring girlfriend fears his occupation will emotionally destroy them if he dies in the line of fire. The turbulent relationship reaches a stalemate, frustrating Danny further into confiding into his imprudent uncle as they work to rehab an old car. When an earthquake takes his uncle’s life, pins his leg underneath the car, and traps him in a closed garage isolated from much of civilization, Danny has limited options for rescue and to make matters worse, the ground opening up has released an undiscovered wormlike creature from the fissures. The severely injured officer now must fight for survival against an enemy unlike any other and face the terrible truth that could possibly change his life forever…if he lives through the night.
“They Crawl Beneath” is subterranean-to-surface horror with large wormlike aggressors hungry for fleshy food. The 2022 creature feature is the screenplay brainchild of writer Tricia Aurand who pens her way through a career of shorts to features with her second full length screenplay, originally entitled “It Crawls Beneath,” developed with the crux of the story surrounding the struggling emotional arc of a couple’s embattled relationship growth while being besieged by the belowground bloodsuckers in a tussle of grit and determination that dually transposes a never give up, never say it’s over theme. “Area 407” and “Reed’s Point” director Dale Fabrigar helms the film in what’s the second collaborator effort between Tricia Aurand and the director that falls upon the complete opposite on the genre spectrum behind the feel-good holiday movie “Middleton Christmas,” cowritten and produced by Suzanne DeLaurentiis and, before your wheels start spinning, there’s no mention of her relation to famous television cook Giada De Laurentiis or Giada’s Italian film-centric father, Dino De Laurentiis. Like an effort to purge cathartically the holiday spirit, Suzanne DeLaurentiis, who wrorte-and-directed 1996’s “Mutant Man,” produces the film with Fabrigar and Aurant spearheading the project under her banner, Suzanne DeLaurentiis Productions,” and presented theatrically by Kevin and Noel Goetz of BBMG Entertainment and “Monstrous’s” Film Mode Entertainment.
“They Crawl Beneath” is essentially a one-man show, puncturing much of the same vein as “Stalled,” “Buried,” or “The Shallows” where a single protagonist much problem-solve to work out from a difficult and deadly situation. Now, “They Crawl Beneath” slightly differs from the examples aforementioned that provides a bit of setup with cop-on-leave Danny (Joseph Almani) down in the dumps and hanging with Uncle Bill (Michael Paré, “Village of the Damned”) as a direct result of having a fallen out with girlfriend Gwen (Karlee Elridge) over a near death experience in a shootout with a perp. Almani gives a wrought performance that’s raps a handful of times on the door of embarrassing ignominy with overzealous one-liners that squander the fervid weight the story works very tirelessly to setup for Danny and his pitfall of troubles. Yet, Danny also can’t grasp the heaviness of Gwen’s decision to leave him as if what matters to her is no matter at all and that’s where the script disproportionally downplays Danny’s pride by having him recoil into the arms of a cool uncle. Michael Paré is the better half of that relationship despite his uncle Bill’s stag behavior. Paré has one of those classic, Golden-Age-type, voices to the likes of Robert Mitchum and though that doesn’t necessary speak to the Gen-X youth as cool, there’s still a panache quality about the 40-year vet actor that makes him feel bigger than the film itself. Elridge’s Gwen undercuts much into Almani’s man versus underground grub with an attitude in scenes that are terribly forced. Elridge, who doesn’t fail on her own accord, falls into an uninspiring role with unimportant lines and scenes just so there can be a prominent love interest for Danny. Gar-Ye Lee, Christopher M. Dukes, Brian DeRozan, and Elena Sahagun co-star.
I’ve read a few threads and comments around the worldwide web comparing Fabrigar’s “They Crawl Beneath” to the creature feature-classic Kevin Bacon-starring film “Tremors.” Those comments and comparisons are grossly ill-conceived. Aside from the physical release cover art which displays a well-armed individual standing cool on cracked pavement in the desert while the foreground large fissure in the road exposes a menacing burrowing organism does echo Graboid parallelism, but that’s the extent of it. There’s no “Mad Max” man with a rifle and a handgun in this flick. There’s an outskirt L.A. desert, but much creepy-crawler action takes place in a four-walled and dark garage. And the only similarities between these creatures and the Graboids are the Graboid’s snake-like tongues. The pint-sized creatures with tri-mandible, razor sharp teethed, mouths appear similar but individuated and brandish a stinger to be lethal at both ends of its larva bulbous body. The puppetry is obvious but also fantastic in the same breath. I couldn’t see Fabrigar and the creature effects supervisor pulling off the task any other way that doesn’t grade A visual effects, such as the cast in James Gunn’s “Slither.” “They Crawl Beneath” enters more of a survival horror and less of a creature feature with the principal lead finding himself trapped inside a garage and pinned underneath a car. Typical of many low-cost and independent productions that take refuge in one single, inexpensive location, the setup, the lion’s share act two, and the escape pays off big time in deflection stagnation by keeping Danny occupied with options though more than likely the creatures would have bit off his face during numerous moments of vulnerability. Pacing like this is troubled throughout. As I mentioned, Karlee Elridge’s scenes often created a distraction from the story’s essence and her scenes were intrusively pointless. As Danny finally connects with Gwen on the phone and she proclaims she will get ahold of Officer Holden to send help, there’s a scene following of her driving and calling officer Holden and explaining the situation. The scene bears inane purpose and is repetitive and there are a handful of scenes like this to thicken out the role of Elridge.
Practical effects driven “They Crawl Beneath” is middle of the road magnitude survival creature feather that has squirmed its way onto a Blu-ray home video from Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated region A Blu-ray is presented in 1080, 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an impressive contrast with enriched negative space that demarcates the well-shot positive space. Picture quality doesn’t seem to suffer compressed on the BD25 as there is no banding in the blacks and there are plenty of darker scenes contained in the garage. Skin, human and Platyhelminth, appear textured aplenty and while typical arid landscapes can whitewash character details due to lack of diverse color and adjacent objects, that’s not the case here as the focus in exterior scenes is tight on the characters and less about what’s in the background. The English language DTS-HD master audio channels cleaning through the output with phonic clarity. Acoustically, the garage sequences can sound slightly isolating which works for the confined space meant to have no sound dampeners to start. Creature screeches are generic but effective and sync aptly to the action without degradation. Option English SDH subtitles are available. The Well Go USA Entertainment release is feature film only with no bonus material accompanying the 88-minute runtime. “The Crawl Beneath” returns to the midnight showings of the USA Network days where the schlock hits the fan with genre features playing at ungodly hours, but the Dale Fabrigar quaking-quagmire is quick to enclose one man trapped in a room full of man-eating slugs and, sometimes, that’s all we want in a film.