Best Movies You’ve Never Heard Of: Netherbeast Incorporated #eyeofthejackal
There are some smaller movies that try so hard to feel comfortable in their own skin (Southland Tales, Garden State, and Juno to name a few), and bless their little hearts for trying, because they are in fact entertaining movies even though they will never find acceptance from a mass audience. They are good movies, and in some cases great movies, but because of the nature of their quirkiness or storytelling manner, they are found and loved but a minute pocket of special film lovers (like me). On the other end of the spectrum, you have the rare gem that feels so natural, so effortless, that you can’t help but instantly fall in love with the whole concept (Rushmore, Clerks, and Office Space to be sure) because of how well thought out the script was and how deftly the film was edited together. Somewhere in-between the 2 extremes, but heavily steeped towards the naturally effortless side is the 2007 film Netherbeast Incorporated. It’s a rare position to be in, but somehow this little offbeat office comedy come tale of corporate vampirism ends up being in a league all of it’s own.
Based on the following short film:
Adapting the short film to a feature length ultimately ended up in a paradigm shift that added yet another comedic wrinkle to the set up: the manager is also a vampire (although they prefer the term netherfolk), and he is experiencing a sort of Alzheimer’s/Senility that makes him believe that he is purely human. At it’s core, Netherbeast Incorporated is an undead office comedy with a ton of sight gags, clever dialogue, and smartly written mythology. Honestly, what makes this film so much fun to watch is the absurd attention to detail in how the netherfolk came to be and how they have managed to live successfully in society without ever being discovered.
The story is primarily told from Otto Granberry’s perspective, a shy yet smart office clerk played masterfully by Steve Burns (of Blue’s Clues fame, yes… that Steve – although I feel that it is worth mentioning that he has 2 rock albums on CD and you should check them out immediately, because they are phenomenal). He narrates the film and gives us a crash course in who everybody is, how being a netherfolk works, and how they differ from the common understanding of vampirism. The plot involves Otto being given the responsibility of finishing the final draft of a new “initiative” because the employee who was assigned to do it is now dead, staked in the heart by their manager, Turner Claymore (played in swarmy boss-like fashion by SNL’s Darrell Hammond). Turner believes that the dead employee was a vampire, and not just a vampire, but one of many possibly working at Berm-Tech Industries. The truth is that everybody who works at Berm-Tech (a telecommunications company) is a netherfolk, including Turner! As mentioned above, Turner is suffering from a rare mental condition that makes him believe that he is a human. Shenanigans abound as the other managers and employees attempt to hide all of the netherfolk paraphernalia from Turner and the efficiency expert he just hired, Steven Landry (who is portrayed in a fun and energetic performance by Judd Nelson – from nearly every movie in the 80s). On top of all of that, Turner has hired an actual human from the outside world, Pearl Stricklett (performed by Amy Davidson who has way too much fun being in love with ventriloquist dummies – for reals) to replace the netherfolk employee that he killed earlier in the film. Things go all kinds of caddywhompus as the hard working netherfolk try to keep the efficiency expert at bay, train a new human employee without blowing their cover and at the same time try to cure their ailing boss.
What works about this film is the mythology and how deep it goes. The writer, Bruce Dellis, and the Ronalds Brothers (Dean and Brian) have done an incredible job of putting together a credible and meticulously thought out backstory for the netherfolk. Their origin, going all the way back to President Garfield (in a somber and enchanting cameo by the legendary Robert Wagner), is well fleshed out, as is the exact definition of the abilities, limitations and key items that repel and empower them. If you are thinking they are vampires, you’d be wrong – but they are similar in some ways. It’s intriguing and entertaining to watch the filmmakers play with vampire lore and turn it on it’s ear.
The actors also do a swell job of keeping the story grounded, with characters that feel natural and that work and play well off of each other. Each character is unique and complements the crowded ensemble. Darrell Hammond channels his inner boss/William Shatner to play the ill boss Turner. Dave Foley puts in a fantastic comedic “ah heck, what else has gone wrong and how do I fix it?” turn as middle manager Henry Welby. Jason Mewes (in a role vastly different than his character in the Kevin Smith films) has a lot of fun as a relatively normal person and Otto’s best friend/chief adviser on personal matters. Amy Davidson takes on her character with a wide-eyed abandonment that helps sell the quirky allure of working at a place as deranged as Berm-Tech. And it can not be stated enough: Steve Burns carries the burden of guiding the audience through this film with a glint of comedic genius and nerdy restraint. He walks a fine humor line and it pays off each time his character gets in the next crazy scenario. All in all, everyone gels and as such each scene has colorful and engaging dialogue that will keep you chuckling the entire time.
Netherbeast Incorporated is a rare creature. A low budget comedy that manages to be as entertaining as any big-budget film that you’ll ever watch. You may not see it in the production value (which is not always great), but you will see it in the heart of the characters and with the conviction in which they interact within the narrative. It is pure escapist fun. Be advised, this film does not shy away from the blood and gore of being a movie about an office of undead employees. If viscera does not put you off from seeing a flick, give this one a watch. You will thoroughly enjoy it. Netherbeast Incorporated is available on DVD and digitally through iTunes. At this time, it has not been released on Blu-Ray, but hopefully that grievous error will be corrected in the near future. Regardless, check this flick out, and remember… in intense situations when you have to tell someone the truth, don’t forget to use the eye of the jackal!
Watch the Trailer for Netherbeast Incorporated: