September 22, 2021 It Came from Below (Movie Review)
A dank cave with a ghastly secret stars in It Came From Below, a new Horror/Sci-Fi blend that arrived to Digital on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 thanks to Uncork’d Entertainment and Jagged Edge Productions.
Directed by Dan Allen (Unhinged 2017, Crypt TV’s Monster Madness mini-series), who co-wrote the screenplay along with Sam Ashurst (A Little More Flesh 2020, Vampire Virus 2020), It Came From Below is built on a solid yet somewhat formulaic premise. The story centers around a young woman, Jessie (Megan Purvis: Hilda 2019, The Young Cannibals 2019), whose father (Stuart Packer: Breakdown short 2017, Mission of Honor 2018) dedicated his life to chasing a horrifying creature deep in the recesses of a local cave. Maligned for his passion and dismissed as a madman throughout his life, his untimely death strikes a thunderous blow to his daughter.
To assuage her depression, and with the unwanted assistance of her brother, Sam (Jake Watkins: Don’t Speak 2020, Toothfairy 2 2020), plus two of his tagalongs—Joanna (Georgie Banks: Hatched 2021, Last Night in Soho 2021) and Marty (Tom Taplin: Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot 2020, We Go in at Dawn 2020)—Jessie sets out for the source of her father’s obsession: the cave. Warned to avoid its depths by a pair of park rangers—Grace (Becca Hirani: Unhinged 2017, Those of Us short 2019) and Frank (Howard J. Davey: Poldark series, Shockwaves 2022)—the friends continue into its depths in hopes of finding proof of a mysterious creature from another realm.
Horror films set within caves, or beneath the earth, are nothing new, with 2005’s The Descent being one of the finest examples of the subset. While unable to attain the same efficacy as the aforementioned flick, It Came From Below might have flaws, but it definitely does its best to work with what it has at its disposal. A largely generic plot is its obvious stumbling block, but its cast and crew are largely able to surmount any pitfalls—including the story’s bare bones character development—in favor of toying with our innate fears of the unknown and the dark.
At a succinct 81 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. In fact, the pace is so quick that within the first 10 minutes the characters are already introduced, assembled, and en route to the cave; no time is wasted in placing them inside the claustrophobic walls of the earth. Massive craggy walls, pitch black night, and an ominous sense of doom persist here, creating an environment where it’s not too hard to imagine a monster lurking in the shadows. The filmmakers use this to their advantage, doing their best to camouflage the paved walkways within the cave as well as utilizing murky lighting to hide their creature’s flaws.
Speaking of, because you know one exists, the bloodthirsty being is little more than a man (Luke Robinson: The Man Who Cared Too Much short 2013, Prototype 2022) inside of a costume—one that focuses more on a ghastly head than on creating a full-bodied terror. Far from exceptional, this creation is able to get the job done thanks to the camera’s erratic angles that play with a pseudo-Found Footage style at times, as well as the lack of proper lighting. Which is not to overlook Robinson, whose body language sells the idea that he’s ready to eat anyone who stumbles into his subterranean home.
His castmates, nay, victims, are solid in their roles, with Purvis and Taplin receiving the most screen time and, therefore, providing the stand-out performances. Though each of the actors delivers, still, the film is often characterized by the group running through the dark, screaming, as a shaky camera prevents moviegoers from getting a clear picture of what’s happening. It’s a familiar concept—the idea that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do—one that has been done before, both to disastrous results (2012’s Chernobyl Diaries) and, in this case, mixed success.
Certainly some of the film’s high points include the previously mentioned, creative cinematography of Dominic Ellis (Medusa 2020, Blood in the Water 2022), as well as the inclusion of a subtle and sophisticated score from Greg Birkumshaw (All the Pretty Girls 2016, Bats 2021). Thanks to these flourishes and the passion that shows within the production, It Came From Below manages to transcend mediocrity. It helps, too, that the film subverts any expected jump-scares in favor of drawing out its tension to anxiety-inducing levels, taunting its audience at every turn.
If you are a fan of heinous surprises hiding under the cloak of midnight, it definitely has its anticipatory moments. For Horror die-hards, it’s a solid, if not exceptional, addition to 2021’s releases, though, for those who are not fans of the genre, It Came From Below is not apt to bring you over to the dark side. That pun was very much intended, and Cryptic Rock gives the film 3.5 of 5 stars.