Making a movie is daunting. Several choices must be made such as story, location, production design, casting, etc. all while trying to maintain a singular vision. They Crawl Beneath is a movie where several poor choices were made. It’s borderline laughable if not outright irritating. Part of me wants to recommend the movie as a midnight movie – you know the ones, when they’re so bad they’re actually good. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t quite cross that threshold.
The main problem here is that the movie takes itself far too seriously. It’s hard to tell if the choices here were made on purpose to make an approximation of a B-movie or if they were just plain wrong, especially since the opening credits are amazing. The credits feel like Godzilla (2014), except they use images of worms, seismographs, and headlines all stylized with a grainy filter and an epic score that is reminiscent of the drive in sci-fi and monster movies. It all conveys a sense of dread, but sadly the opening of this movie is a kind of false advertising.
Danny (Joseph Almani) works with his uncle to restore a vintage muscle car when an earthquake causes the car to fall off the makeshift lift. Danny’s uncle is killed instantly while Danny’s legs are crushed. To make matters worse, the quake has reawakened a species of mutant subterranean worms, and the garage seems to be ground zero for these creatures.
The movie’s premise is actually pretty strong, but the execution is terrible. They Crawl Beneath is confined to one location with a series of trials the protagonist must endure. We’ve seen this story done in several movies such as Buried, Rear Window, The Pool (2018) – a Thai survival movie I highly recommend – but the most notable is James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s Saw. These movies live and die by their lead carrying the movie. Unfortunately, all the actors here are inadequate. Danny is desperate for help, trapped and afraid, but Almani’s acting style comes off as if he’s speed reading through his lines. Sure, the character is in a dire situation, but the nuances of the performance are nonexistent. Even in the slower moments, Almani never seems to be able to catch his breath.
Then there’s the small role of Dr. Wu played by Gar-Ye Lee. Her job is to deliver all the exposition about the worms and how big of a threat they are, and Lee’s acting is so bad, she gives Sleepaway Camp’s Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould) a run for her money.
Early on in They Crawl Beneath, there’s a sequence with Danny and his ex-girlfriend Gwen. The conversation is about what kind of man Danny wants to be, and the scene is indicative of all the problems this movie has: stilted and melodramatic acting, contrived storytelling, poor editing, and poor usage of score.
The scene is supposed to be reflective and contemplative, and the music choice opposed to what is being shown, yet there is this building heroic music playing. The scene looks like a shot from a CW pilot in which the HD camera doesn’t do the scene any favors and captures the harsh light making everything look cheap and gaudy. The editing in this scene – as well as many others – is insane. It’s practically in a constant state of panic. I get how they want to convey a sense of immediacy and energy in the intense moments, but its overuse and misuse makes for a draining experience.
I also hated how contrived this movie is. Danny jars up a worm as if it was a scientific discovery and presents it to his ex-girlfriend. She mentions how it’s out of her field of expertise, yet still says “I’m taking this.” Why? It’s like trapping a spider. There’s a chance it could be poisonous or even a rare discovery; however, there’s nothing that suggests anything is out of the ordinary. Similarly, there’s a subplot that revolves around the identity of Danny’s real father that seems like something out of a daytime soap opera. All this to say the movie features some truly insane logic gymnastics to get us from points A to B that are so strained they might break your TV screen.
The one sequence that rises above the rest is the showdown in the garage. Danny manages to free himself from under the vehicle and locks himself in the car. However, the vehicle is in a state of repair so there are chunks of the car missing allowing the worms to creep in. It’s a well-executed scene full of tension but the rest of the movie by comparison falls flat.
I wanted to have more fun with this one but given that the filmmakers forgot their main character’s legs were crushed by a car–conveniently allowing him to hobble around and kick at the monsters–I think we can forget this movie too.
They Crawl Beneath is available on Digital, Blu-ray, & DVD October 4th, 2022.
Big Comic Page was provided a review copy of They Crawl Beneath for this review.
The bonus features include the movie’s trailer and trailers for other Well Go USA Entertainment movies but no additional bonus materials.