Release Date(s)2022 (October 4, 2022)
Studio(s)Suzanne DeLaurentiis Productions (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D-
On the surface (no pun intended), They Crawl Beneath may look like a standard-issue Tremors knockoff, since it features people facing peril from mysterious carnivorous worms that travel underground. Even the title sets clear expectations for what kind of film that it is. In practice, however, it’s not so much a Tremors clone as it is a riff on Cujo, with more than a touch of Stuart Gordon’s Stuck thrown in for good measure. The screenplay by Tricia Aurand follows off-duty police officer Danny (Joseph Almani) as he plans to deal with a growing rift with his girlfriend Gwen (Karlee Eldridge) by spending the weekend working on a vintage muscle car with his uncle Bill (Michael Paré). When an unexpected earthquake hits the vicinity, Danny ends up trapped inside the garage, but even worse, the quake has unleashed a vicious group of giant worms with a taste for human flesh. Danny ends up in a fight for his life while he tries to get a hold of Gwen or anyone else to come to his aid.
It’s a far simpler story than Tremors, with the majority of the action confined to a single set, and most of that revolving around just the one character, rather than an entire ensemble cast. That’s where the Cujo comparisons seem more appropriate, although those who have seen Gordon’s underrated Stuck will immediately understand why it bears a resemblance to that film as well. It’s competently if unimaginatively directed by Dale Fabrigar, and he made the laudable decision to stick to practical effects as much as possible—the earthquakes are rendered digitally, but the monsters themselves primarily consist of animatronics. They’re not the most compelling beasties ever created, but they function well enough for this kind of story.
For a creature feature that runs a slim 87 minutes, They Crawl Beneath does feel unnecessarily padded out at times, with Fabrigar and Aurand employing a considerable number of dramatic cheats to keep the action going for as long as possible. Their narrative structure has one of the most blatant Chekhov’s guns of all time, yet even that ends up turning out to be little more than a red herring, since it would have brought the film to a conclusion far too quickly. Still, padded out or not, They Crawl Beneath is a reasonably diverting monster movie that never quite outwears its welcome before the 87 minutes are over.
Cinematographers John Lazear and Mariscela Beatriz Mendez captured They Crawl Beneath digitally, framed at 2.39:1, but there’s no information available about the equipment that they used. The image is clean and sharp, with minimal noise or other digital artifacts. The contrast range is strong, although some of the highlights do look a little blown out, but that’s likely the way that they were originally captured. Since so much of the film takes place inside the darkened garage, the other end of the spectrum is adequately detailed, without losing too much information to the omnipresent shadows. It’s digital cinematography that looks like digital cinematography, but it works for low-budget production like this one.
Audio is offered in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. The “bottle episode” setting would seem to provide plenty of opportunity for immersive surround effects, but they’re primarily limited to light ambience, with just the occasional directionalized effect. There is some nicely deep bass rumble during the earthquakes, and the score by Oliver Goodwill also adds a bit of heft to the low end. A little more precision to the soundstage might have been nice, but it’s still solid soundtrack overall.
The only extras on Well Go USA Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of They Crawl Beneath are four different HD trailers. Three of them are forced up front when starting the disc, but they can still be selected via the menu as well:
- Trailer (1:59)
- Death Knot Trailer (2:10)
- Unwelcome Trailer (2:19)
- Emergency Declaration Trailer (1:38)
They Crawl Beneath certainly isn’t an instant classic like Tremors turned out to be, but films like that are lightning in a bottle that are difficult to recapture. That’s still not really a fair comparison anyway, since the story for They Crawl Beneath follows its own muse. It’s a fine addition to the monster movie canon, and Well Go USA’s Blu-ray is a fine presentation of it.
- Stephen Bjork