Dan Martin and his wife and two daughters move into a suspiciously affordable new house and discover the haunted undercroft of a long-demolished abbey of evil monks under their backyard. Terror and tragedy ensues.
The text is distractingly thick with typos and mechanical errors. It would be difficult to find a single paragraph without any missing punctuation or a misused to/too/two or their/they’re/there. The story isn’t particularly original or surprising in any way, relying on the old standbys of extreme denial and curiosity to tie the characters to the bad decisions necessary to support the plot. The characters themselves are heavily stereotyped by age and gender and then occasionally analyzed in Dan’s internal monologue as if age and gender differences are a new and untapped subject.
If you’re in the mood for a basic, classic haunted house story, you could do a lot worse. Reading Beneath is like going to see a decent generic jumpscare movie in the theater; as long as you don’t go in looking for groundbreaking innovation and technical prowess, you won’t be disappointed. The scares are solid, if standard, and well paced, enough so to keep even me distracted from the errors, which is quite difficult (after working as a technical editor, the urge to catch each one is hard to shake).
You’ve got your dream sequences from hell, your house calls from baffled professional ghost hunters, your it-was-only-the-cat (or in this case, dog) scenes, all effectively done. Dan himself is, for the most part, loveable and easy to root for as the heroic dad horror protagonist. Possibly, as an admitted daddy’s girl with a little sister, I have a soft spot for him, but there it is.
There is one small but well-executed acknowledgment of the dubiousness of his decision to stay and keep his family in the house after the first few horrors they survive. He notes that the evil seems to have the power to make intense, terrifying psychic experiences feel small and ridiculous after the fact. The phenomenon is so real and relatable that its description is arguably more frightening than the scenes of terror themselves, so due credit for that.