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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Beneath Loch Ness
Beneath Loch Ness
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // June 18, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 29, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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It's been over twenty years since Larry Buchanan of Attack of the the Eye Creatures (sic) fame blessed us with The Loch Ness Horror. Nessy's popped up in innumerable documentaries and warm-fuzzy family schlock such as Ted Danson's Loch Ness or the British television series Uncle Jack and the Loch Ness Monster, but Buchanan's flick was the last -- and as far as I can tell, the only -- attempt to give the Loch Ness Monster the genre spin suggested in its title. If the trailer floating around the web is any indication, The Loch Ness Horror must have been an utterly dismal failure even by the considerably low standards of a Larry Buchanan production. Undaunted and perhaps inspired by the recent onslaught of microbudget water-based horror flicks like Shark Attack, Crocodile, Octopus, and Blood Surf, Chuck Comisky trotted down the same path as Buchanan and decided to both direct and write the direct-to-video horror movie Beneath Loch Ness.

Despite many high-profile attempts to expose the Loch Ness Monster in the past, Professor Gus Egan has a theory that may prove to be a ratings sensation for the network providing his funding. An accident takes Egan's life before anything can be definitively proven, and network executive Lizzie Borden (frequently referred to as "Lizzie"; apparently naming her after America's best-known axe murderess was some sort of lame in-joke) attempts to salvage the project before she finds herself unemployed. The irritable but respected Case Howell is then dispatched to eke out something usable from the extraordinarily limited resources at his disposal. The locals don't appreciate their presence, using crude bombs to destroy their sensors, and a group of young twentysomethings from a Loch Ness website also complicate things with their fatal and unrealistic plans to net a dollar-per-hit with an uninventive hoax. The Loch Ness Monster does, of course, prove to be more than a mere myth, killing off the townsfolk in much the same way that the son of Captain Richard Blay (Patrick Bergen, whose top billing is the least appropriate since Rutger Hauer in Bleeders) was slain seventeen years earlier. The local authorities aren't interested in hearing yet another tale of the monster from skittish foreigners, especially when it stands to interfere with tourist dollars. Bodies continue to pile up, and Blay takes it upon himself to use the crew's equipment to finish off the creature once and for all.

Beneath Loch Ness was written and directed by Chuck Comisky, who has contributed his talents in visual effects to such films as Jaws 3-D, the 1988 remake of The Blob, Last Action Hero, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and Dungeons and Dragons. Beneath Loch Ness follows in that same proud tradition of mediocrity. Its biggest fault cannot be attributed to tight purse strings or its cast, but rather an all-encompassing lack of imagination and the fact that it's just flat-out dull. Very little happens throughout the course of the movie, which at somewhere in the 96 minute range is a tad longer than most direct-to-video efforts. The epic tale of Beneath Loch Ness was apparently such that the presence of no fewer than three writers was required. That it took the efforts of so many to churn out such a formulaic flick is almost heart-breaking. The story is interchangable with most any creature; change the setting and the monster, and this could just as easily be a movie about a killer shark or a giant squid. There's even an extremely poorly executed romance between two characters. Yes, they start off hating each other. Yup, they have a fight about the events going on around them. And absolutely, they passionately kiss mid-spat.

Beneath Loch Ness is also perhaps the most blatant Jaws ripoff since Orca. Take this combination of elements -- a small crew makes an amazing discovery about a creature in the local waters that's killing off people, a stodgy authority figure doesn't buy their story and refuses to shut off the area during the lucrative tourist season, the body count continues to rise, a red herring death fools most of the townsfolk into thinking the creature is dead, the team is forced to deal with a grizzled seafarer hellbent on revenge against the creature, there's a battle to the death that doesn't end well for the irresponsible, crusty captain, and a hero is briefly mourned before it's revealed that he is, in fact, still alive. Yikes.

Beneath Loch Ness' special effects are dismal by most any standard, unconvincing at best and often laughable. The shoddy CGI work appears to have been rendered using off-the-shelf software from Best Buy, and the rocks, depth charges, and Nessy herself tend to look more like images from a PSX cutscene than even a modestly budgeted horror movie. The digital explosions were done at a low resolution that I haven't seen in a feature-length movie since the immortal Leprechaun 4: In Space. Even something as mundane as Lizzie's arrival by train looks like it was chroma-keyed at a UHF station. Worse yet, apparently a water tank wasn't in the budget for Beneath Loch Ness. The cast does their best to mask the lack of an element that's rather necessary for underwater sequences, and though the sound design helps a bit, their valiant attempts to pretend that there's water where there is none ultimately fall short.

I'll continue with the random complaints. The expedition takes place solely for a television special, yet there are no cameras anywhere. Lizzie whips out a consumer-grade camcorder a little after an hour in, but even the remaining members of a Loch Ness website are better equipped. During the exciting climax, Lizzie demands that the footage of Case and Blay be 'captured on disc', much to the dismay of the other folks on the crew. Why wouldn't everything in an expedition of this sort be recorded for posterity? The scale of the monster varies almost as wildly as Godzilla in Centropolis' 1998 re-envisioning. When Nessy first rears her head during the fireworks display, she would probably have to be somewhere around half the size of the loch and undoubtedly a hell of a lot bigger than the sixty feet mentioned in the movie's tagline. When the remains of a far more diminutive creature wash up on shore, Lizzie notices a huge chunk has been taken out of its side, followed by the revelation that whatever made that bite must still be in the loch. The larger monster could easily have swallowed several of those smaller creatures whole. Why would it nibble at something it would see as so inconsequentially tiny? Also, the creature is shown as being fiercely devoted to its nest and reacts violently when its eggs are destroyed. This doesn't seem to be consistent with a monster that would cavalierly feast upon its young. The "conference" in which Mini-Nessy is unveiled is limited to something like ten or fifteen people, half of whom are from the Loch Ness fansite and our camera-less television crew. Wouldn't the monumentous discovery of fresh dinosaur remains muster a little more interest from the international press?

Beneath Loch Ness' release on DVD isn't any more remarkable than the film itself, lacking the sort of spectacular treatment one would generally expect from a $30 disc.

Video: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of Beneath Loch Ness looks strikingly like a low budget direct-to-video effort, as amazing as that revelation may be. Most every flaw can more than likely be traced back to the way in which this shot-on-a-shoestring film was produced. Film grain is somewhat of a nuisance, present to some extent in nearly every shot and greatly exacerbated during many of the more dimly lit interiors. Some of the shots in the hospital, particularly close-ups of Case, are perhaps the worst in that respect, with early stock footage of the loch limping behind as a close second. Contrast sometimes seems a bit murky and certain portions are excessively dark, but the presumably low quality of the film stock and rushed lighting setups are the likely culprits there. The source material is about as clean as one would expect from a recent production, though there are a couple of extremely minor blemishes that don't warrant any real concern. Beneath Loch Ness' visual presentation is nothing spectacular, but I'd imagine this is as good as it's likely to appear until the Next Big Formatâ„¢ rolls around.

Audio: Beneath Loch Ness sports the standard Dolby 2.0 stereo surround track. Dialogue sounds a bit hot in a pair of scenes fairly early on in the movie, as if they weren't recorded under the most ideal of circumstances. It's generally discernable, though, with the exception of some of Case and Blay's conversations during the closest thing to a climax that Beneath Loch Ness has to offer. At that point, the film cuts back and forth to characters topside, and every utterance of theirs is clear and easy to understand. The volume is way too low in the corresponding portions underwater, and having a remote to bump up the receiver or enable subtitles is required to make out more than every fifth word, even if it's not worth that minimal effort in the end. Surrounds get some decent use, accentuating Richard John Baker's repetitive score and providing some nice ambiance on the water. My subwoofer didn't get much of a workout, hardly rumbling during even some of the underwater explosions. The audio wouldn't appear to offer a substantial improvement over an airing on cable, but it's not deeply flawed or anything.

English closed captions and subtitles are also available.

Supplements: There are no extras even tangentially related to the film itself, though Dimension Films has tacked on trailers for Mimic, Mimic 2, Children of the Corn: Revelation, and Dracula 2000. All of the trailers are full-frame except the original Mimic, which is letterboxed though not enhanced for widescreen televisions. A self-congratulatory reel of "Dimension Cutting Edge Films" has also been provided, for whatever reason.

Conclusion: Beneath Loch Ness is lackluster direct-to-video fare. I personally wouldn't even bother with a rental, let alone its hardly insubstantial list price of $29.99. If some unseen force compels you to give Beneath Loch Ness a look, I'd recommend at least renting it before plunking down more than buck or two.
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