Despite the bad acting, the weird musical interludes and the low budget this film made one critical mistake. For a film that takes place mainly in a brothel with a story revolving around sex and rebirth, it has a serious lack of nudity.
While nudity isn't necessary for a film to make it's point, low budget pictures of this nature benefit greatly from it if the nudity makes sense plot wise.
While the story is ok in concept and perfect for a Full Moon release, I just didn't feel the execution was up to snuff.
The film has a young man (Michael Bendetti, the guy that filled in for Johnny Depp after he left 21 Jump Street) inherit a huge southern manor after the father he never met dies. Arriving at the manor and meeting the two caretakers (a mother and daughter), he starts reading notes written to him by his father about how he hooked up with a voodoo priestess at the local brothel and how with his sons help, he can come back to the land of the living. Heeding the warnings of the mansion's caretakers, he heads to the brothel on multiple occasions to seek the truth about getting the father he never new back.
I have to give director David Schmoeller credit as even with a small budget, he gives the film a nice look. Schmoller is one of those directors that I always believed could have done much better as he has the talent but always had sub-par scripts to work with. Look at some of his other films like Puppet Master and Crawlspace and you can tell this guy has talent behind the camera, just not a good script book in his hands and that is the main problem with Netherworld.
The plot to this film moves at a snail's pace and it takes forever to get the story moving and it meanders to an unfulfilling climax. Our character goes to the brothel and back multiple times. Back and forth, back and forth with not much accomplished. In the basement of the brothel, weird visuals are abundant most notably a flying stone hand with snake heads on a few finger tips. This thing flies around a few times brutally killing a few people. The hand makes for an interesting visual but what purpose does it serve in the plot? NOTHING other than cool visual. Nothing is ever explained about the hand it only serves to be a cool aspect to throw into trailers and poster artwork to get people to see the damn film. The hand also rips off the flying silver spheres from Phantasm so the idea itself isn't even original.
Another problem is our characters, especially our secondary characters. At one point our caretaker of the house does a voodoo ritual but is blinded by our voodoo princess and thus disappears from the film completely. Why have her in the damn thing then? Her daughter is also pointless other than to serve as eye candy. Some characters are completely evil and then flip-flop becoming good at a split second with absolutely no explanation! There is also an interesting tie to the image of birds in the film but it is so poorly developed that it becomes more silly than anything.
For a Full Moon movie, this looks good and is by far one of their best looking films. With a better script this could have become a Full Moon classic but all the plot flaws makes the viewer comes out more pissed off than entertained. It's a shame director David Schmoeller didn't go on to direct some decent films as he always seemed to be tied down with poor scripts provided by Charles Band. Netherworld actually marked the end of the directors long working relationship with the producer as they had a falling out. Considering the films Full Moon started churning out by the end of the decade, it was probably a good move on his part never to direct for Band again.
Aside from the dull plot, most of the actors are dull and are not worth backing up. The witch comes off as a villain, but at the end of the movie, she's a good guy (??), or something. I'm not sure, that was never made clear to me. Also, there are NO recognizable faces in this film, save for the main character's dad who was the Dean in Re-Animator and Edgar Winter (gets the award for Most Unusual Cameo) as part of the band at the brothel. This is definitely one of Full Moon's weaker films, which is a shame because I thought it would have been better. It gets its two stars for the decent amount of titties, as well as a HILARIOUS ending involving a parrot, and a HILARIOUS after credits scene that should have been infused into the lackluster movie somewhere. Too bad.