Terror from Beneath the Earth (2009) by Jeffrey Long
Originally posted at: http://bmovieshelf.blogspot.com/2013/09/terror-from-beneath-earth-2009.html
Following on from "The Monster of Phantom Lake," "It Came From Another World!," and "Cave Women on Mars, "Terror From Beneath the Earth" is the fourth movie in the long-lasting low budget Mihmiverse series of fun black and white 1950s Drive-In B-Movie tributes. After jumping into the then-Future of 1987 (from the point of view of how it may have been thought-up as being like from back in the 1950s) in "Cave Women on Mars," we return back to the 'present' of the 1950s for this next mostly-stand-alone entry, though sadly lacking any returning characters save for one short cameo.
In this movie, Daniel Sjerven returns from "Cave Women on Mars," though obviously playing a brand new character since this movie takes place long before that one does. Here, he plays the grief-stricken single father of two children who went missing while playing around in an unexplored and off-limits underground cave system. He plays the role of worried father well enough, from losing his temper in the police station over their inability to do their jobs properly, to running off on his own without really thinking about it into the darkness of the caves when he thinks he has a lead on his kids, to taking charge and battling the monster of the movie when doing so means saving the lives of his children, the guy's acting ability is never once in question. Unfortunately, the role is really rather one-note and not nearly as interesting or fun as his campy Bruce Campbell-esque space explorer in the previous movie. Also joining him in returning from some of the previous movies is Mike Cook (one half of the Canoe Cops duo), also playing a brand new character, Dr. Vincent Edwards who, along with his female assistant, is exploring the cave system for research and gets caught up with helping hunt down this creature, despite his objections to do so. Much like with the other characters in this movie, he generally plays it pretty straight for the most part and, in all honesty, the character here is kind of forgettable.
Which is one of my main complaints heremost of the characters in this movie are just bland and boring, especially when compared to the quirky folks that dominated all three of the previous movies. That's not to say any of the actors are specifically bad, but when it comes to how the characters are written, unlike the other movies so far, they're played up to be pretty straight and serious here in comparison, and not quite so campy or quirky, which in turn, loses some of the appeal. Sure, there are still quite a few funny bits scattered around (the scene where Daniel Sjerven comes face to face with the monster for the first time and just stares it down and then tells it that it stinks is one of my favorite parts), but compared to the previous movies this one is played more straight then I'm used to with these. In point of fact (and I know this is a total contradiction to what I've said in the previous reviews), but I actually kind of, sort of, miss the character of Professor Jackson. Sure, I find that character annoying as all hell and I was ready to tear my hair out by the end of the first couple movies, but his unique style of character really could have benefited this movie. I know I've dogged on that character in all previous reviews, but I feel he's kind of like that one ex everyone has that you can't stand and you find so unbelievably annoying that you break up with them...only to end up missing those very things about them when they're not around, that you previously found annoying. Plus Josh Craig, whether playing Professor Jackson, Captain Jackson, or someone entirely new, is always entertaining to watch and his presence here (being the first Mihmiverse movie without him) is sorely missed. Sure, we do get a cameo appearance of his girlfriend (now wife) from "It Came From Another World!," now pregnant with their baby who will go on to become Captain Jackson from "Cave Women on Mars" (lost yet?), and she does namedrop Professor Jackson, but I was never really a big fan of her character anyway, and it still feels like something is missing by not having Josh Craig make an appearance himself.
I also wasn't a big fan of the creature design for the mutant killer bat monster either. I know 'bad' is part of the joke with all of these, but after the 'excellent' and ambitious effects for "Cave Women on Mars," the lack of something truly terrifying for the mutant bat monster was a bit of a let-down. Actually, in all honesty, I think I actually like the bucket-headed Algae Monster and the bulging-eyed alien body-controller of the first two movies better then this thing here. The idea of the creature is fine, and I loved its ability to paralyze it's victims first, only to drag them back to its bone-covered lair to eat later, but the design of it was where I felt the ball was dropped a bit.
Now don't misunderstand me here, it may sound like I didn't like the movie at all, and while I do honestly feel it's the weakest of the series thus-far, there is still lots to like for fans of the Mihmiverse. For instance, I liked the idea of the movie quite a bit, with it having the entire thing take place in underground cave systems (minus a couple scenes in the police station), and I really enjoyed the actual cave system set itself. It looked like it may have been Paper Mâché or something like that, but it worked great and looked excellent, coming across like almost a real cave system and not just a couple corners of somebody's basement. It also reminded me quite a bit of sets for low budget Egyptian tombs in classic Mummy movies, which then had me kind of longing for a Mihmiverse Mummy movie. Perhaps as a previous adventure of Dr. Vincent Edwards, maybe? He seems like the type that would have gone on an Egyptian Mummy Adventure, though maybe as someone who refuses to believe the 'mumbo jumbo' of the curse and tries to (with difficulty) come up with scientific explanations for the wrapped dead walking again. Just tossing around some ideas here!
The movie's strongest aspect I found though, was that it surprisingly raised some interesting thought-provoking questions of morality and responsibility. We created this monster by man's own doing (admittedly, by accident and without our knowledge via polluting the Earth with excess Atomic testings), however is it really our place to make this new species go extinct? Even knowing that it's killed people and could continue to kill? I liked the questions this movie raised via it's characters and their actions, and it ended up coming across as quite a bit deeper then you would expect a movie like this to get, and if there was one interesting thing that was done with the otherwise forgettable characters of this entry, it was seeing where each of them fell in their opinions on that. In addition, the final climax between Man and Monster and how it was defeated was probably one of the more thrilling climaxes in the series so far and literally had me on the edge of my seat.
Continuing the trend put forth with the releases of the previous three movies, this self-produced DVD is stacked right up with tons of excellent bonus content. For this title we have only one Blooper Reel instead of two (but it has a really good length to it and is, just like all the others, simply laugh-out-loud hilarious), a trailer for the movie, a featurette on the creation and evolution of the bat monster costume, a Photo Gallery of tons of Behind-the-Scenes photos, an introduction to the film by Horror Host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis (making a return after being missing from the previous movie), and the usual informative full length Audio Commentary by Christopher R. Mihm and lead actor Daniel Sjerven.
I wish I liked this one as much as I did the others, especially since it's clear the people behind it put in just as much effort as they always do (that's obvious from just the set design work and excellent acting alone, not to mention the work put into making the actual creature suit, even if it wasn't my favorite of the designs), but overall "Terror From Beneath the Earth" just didn't jive with me quite like the rest in the Mihmiverse have so far. In the end, it's still well-worth checking out if you're a fan of the series, but if you're looking for a gateway movie to break into the Mihmiverse world, I probably wouldn't recommend this one as your first foray.
Seeing as how most of the advertising for this guy and his movies come from simple word of mouth from the fans, then if you do check his stuff out and enjoy it please help get the word out there on these movies and hopefully we can snag in a few other fans that may not even realize these exist. You can order these on DVD (and even BluRay for the latest couple!) over at his official site which is filled with all sorts of other goodies as well (including a monthly newsletter in addition to a very laid back, yet fun and informative, podcast). Hell, there's even an excellent deal on right now – Buy Three Movies, Get One Free, which seeing as how there's currently eight of these titles, if you do that twice then that is the perfect way to catch up with all of them and in the end save some dough!
6/10 rooms in the Psych Ward