From Below (15)
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Screenplay: Le-Van Kiet
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, James Tupper, Deidre O'Connell
Review: David Stephens
Remember that trailer for the Alicia Silverstone shark movie The Requin? Well, it's just snuck out on VOD with a newly assumed name (in the UK, at least). From Below is the new and insipid moniker for this rather odd little movie which isn't much of an improvement on that first nonsensical title. If they were going to use another word for "shark" in the global village, they should have gone the Bosnian ("ajkula") or Italian ("squalo") route. At least they sound a bit menacing. Back to this film, though. Silverstone isn't the first actress you'd associate with a shark movie, but there you go. She seems to be moving towards the horror genre in this stage of her career, with the recent well-regarded The Lodge and just released on VOD Last Survivors. Along with James Tupper (Big Little Lies), she plays what is essentially a two-hander with a married couple in tropical trouble. Directed and written by Le-Van Kiet, the film is now available on VOD platforms in the UK and USA. We "requin" we should take a look at it.
Married couple Jaelyn (Silverstone) and Kyle (Tupper) have got away from it all in Vietnam. Recovering from personal tragedy and marital strife, they are staying in a beachside chalet on an idyllic beach setting. Unfortunately, this isn't the best place to be when a tropical storm reaches the coastline despite the initial tranquillity. Kyle and Jaelyn are washed out to sea along with the remnants of their once-luxurious abode. Drifting at the mercy of the currents, when the storm subsides, it doesn't take long for certain denizens of the deep to start circling for a bite to eat…
Okay, so this is basically Open Water… err… but with a floating beach hut… at least for part of the film. But for something that is marketed as a shark movie and was originally called The Shark (in French), it takes a long-ass time for any finny fiends to make an appearance. And we mean a LONG-ASS time. Seriously. If we told you, you probably wouldn't believe it. The promos and poster play up the surrounded-by-sharks-motif, but if this movie were a shark pie, it would list the ingredients as "contains 10% shark meat and 90% breadcrumbs or filler". Unfortunately, it's just one of a long list of problems that will leave film "finatics" waiting for the marine mayhem to commence for much of the time and laughing at the plentiful tropes and "lifetime" movie dialogue for the rest of it.
There's some serious foreshadowing with eye-rolling lines like "A room above the water? Is it safe?" (nope) or background TV news playing weather alerts to the rumbles of ominous music. Couple that with soap-opera lines like "Oh my God! We're moving away from land" or "You're the best thing that ever happened to me" (*gag*), and it's really hard to understand what demographic the film caters for. Yeah, there are some gratuitous close-ups of leg and arm wounds, along with a ridiculously bloody final act. But the survival horror element is sadly lacking. It could be seen as an allegory about marital strife or finding strength after a trauma, but that's reaching a bit. Incidentally, what kind of leisure resort or holiday company lets residents stay in beachside accommodation during a freaking hurricane, only phoning them when the storm's right on top of the site and offering them alternate accommodation IF THEY WANT IT?! The damned hut is halfway to Australia two minutes later! Realism takes a holiday as well, apparently.
All of this would be bearable if it was a parody or had some really good points. But apart from a couple of cinematic shots, it doesn't. According to IMDB, the film has something in the region of 1000 VFX shots. And boy, does it show! Whether it was due to Covid or budget, most of it was shot in the Universal Studios at Orlando, and you won't be fooled it was anywhere else. There is stock footage aplenty and horrible backscreen work that doesn't convince for a second. The floating hut is clearly superimposed, and the leads flounder around an infinity pool with a painted backdrop. The sharks are stock footage apart from some iffy effects when an uber-shark (presumably Mr Requin himself) makes life tricky for the cast right at the very end. Even when someone lands on an island, the details are masked by SFX dust clouds and forced perspectives.
It's not great, and Silverstone seems to be channelling the spirit of Nicholas Cage at some points, shrieking at planes and boats that are literally miles away and losing the plot during some sublimely loopy moments that almost save the film. Still, at least her body double seems to be having a nice time in the Vietnamese streets, and the ocean is suspiciously clear and free of debris. There's not a so-bad-it's-good vibe that some of the Asylum productions naturally exude (maybe if Eric Roberts had played the husband) or a great deal of joy to be had from it. That last-minute name change is very suspicious, almost as if it was pretending to be a different film. Don't be fooled, though. From Below is exactly where it's going back to.