The Tunnel - out on DVD

Monday, 06 August 2012 00:00 Written by 

 

The Tunnel - out now on DVDIn this faux documentary-cum-found-footage horror flick, Australia is suffering from a severe water shortage problem. The city of Sydney comes up with a plan to adapt disused underground tunnels as a supplementary reservoir. Everything seems to be progressing well until reports of the project’s progress suddenly vanish from the airwaves, prompting inquisitive TV journalist Natasha (Bel Deliá) to investigate.

When Natasha and her small production team announce their intentions to the council and the tube network, they encounter blunt resistance, leaving them with no option but to break into the tunnels. All they expect to find is a collection of musty sanctums providing refuge to pockets of homeless inhabitants, and not a lot else. What they actually find is a lot more disturbing and deadly. If they can get out alive, they can expose the shocking truth to the world.

“The Tunnel” has quite a lot going for it. The acting is impressively natural and lends the film a potent sense of realism. Deliá and co-star Steve Davis (actually a cinematographer by trade – this is his first acting role) are excellent. Half of the running time is spent listening to crew members recount how they became interested in Sydney’s water conservation scheme, and what they experienced in the tunnels. The other half is a blend of footage from two cameras the four-person crew took with them, one a superior, TV studio device, the other a basic, palm-sized camcorder used for night-vision footage.

The opening titles and John Carpenter-esque, pulsing theme music (‘Reflection of Madness’ by Motion Fused) are brilliantly put together, setting the film up perfectly.

Like the characters, the movie unfortunately loses its way somewhat in the tunnel sequences. Way too much time is spent wandering or running around blandly similar corridors and rooms with nothing else going on, and with semi-ad-libbed dialogue going round in circles. The threat down below – human or supernatural - eventually turns up, but it never inspires much fear because its nature does not seem in keeping with the rest of the film; disbelief is resolutely not suspended. Even when you do get a glimpse of ‘it’, the DVD picture, via the fuzzy night-vision camcorder, is so dark and murky that the only sensation I experienced was frustration rather than terror!

Perhaps the worst crime, though, is that it quickly becomes apparent who made it out of the tunnels alive and who did not, by dint of the post-event interviews distributed throughout the film. Whilst there is some interest in why the others did not survive, or what happened to them, this foreknowledge takes half the fun away before their investigation has even started.

The crew, including director Carlo Ledesma (Event Zero) and writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey evidently put a lot of hard work into the project and took big risks by commencing filming before all of their funding had been raised.  The political and environmental angle of the story has great potential but is massively under-exploited, and as a result the movie ends up being lost in the pile of also-ran found-footage releases than fail to fulfil their potential. Still, fans of the more environmental Doctor Who stories, as well as “Creep”, “The Descent” and “The Blair Witch Project” might get something out of it.

If there is light at the end of this particular tunnel, then the plentiful special features might be responsible. I was certainly not be disappointed with this release’s offerings. You get:

  • Alternate ending
  • Behind-the-scenes making-of (75 mins)
  • TV Crew bootcamp featurette
  • Make-up test
  • Shooting a scene featurette
  • Meet the cast interviews
  • Production diary clips


The main making-of documentary is very thorough, not least in terms of what it takes to get an independent movie off the ground by using the Internet as a key fund-raising medium. The 135K Project seeks to get sponsorship for each frame of a movie (25 frames a second, 90 minute running time which makes 135,000 frames at $1 a frame). The makers also used the Internet to promote their project as heavily as possible, and the Torrent download network to openly share the end product.

Other key insights provided by the extras include disruption to the production process because of the suspected presence of asbestos at one of their locations (an old war fortification), and the various gorilla film-making techniques they employed. The crew were jammy enough to get the Australian Prime Minister on film by being in the right place at the right time, on day one of shooting no less!

“The Tunnel” (2011) is out now, courtesy of Arrow Films. The film has a running time of 90 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Friday, 17 August 2012 08:45

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