Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Tunnel (2011)

Truly, we are living in an age that can only be described as "The Future"! While people might still bemoan the absence of personal jet packs and flying cars, we have actually arrived at a point in time where much better things than falling to one's death from hundreds of meters are possible: namely, filmmakers financing a movie over the Internet to then give it away free of charge.

So, yeah, you can legally download and watch The Tunnel following this handy link to the film's site (where you can of course also buy stuff).

Because it's by now a traditional (and pretty practical) way to set-up a low budget horror film, The Tunnel is another fake documentary. The movie consists of footage supposedly shot by the film's protagonists, some security camera footage, and so on, all embedded in interviews with the survivors of the plot. It's a pretty standard set-up that has been a bit overplayed these last few years, but at least The Tunnel belongs among the number of fake documentaries that try to realistically emulate the documentary format, does so quite effectively and does not leave its audience with the question by and for whom exactly the footage at hand was edited together (The Last Exorcism, I'm looking at you).

Plotwise, the film tells the story of four TV journalists (nope, for once no film students) - played with professional aplomb by Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis and Luke Arnold - illegally entering the system of tunnels beneath and next to the Sydney subway system to investigate why the local government suddenly and quietly dropped plans to put an old water reservoir situated down there to new use, and if this has any connection with the tales about disappearing homeless people going around. Obviously, the quartet will find out more than they asked for, and not everyone will survive the trip.

After this description, anyone who has seen a few fake documentary/POV horror movies (The Tunnel's situated in both related styles at once), will pretty much know where this is going, because original, this film is not. However, originality is not everything in genre filmmaking. Execution is just as important, and it's at this point where The Tunnel shines next to many of its peers. I've already mentioned the solid quality of the acting that makes it easy enough to view the protagonists as believable professionals and as grown-ups.

Furthermore - and this makes sense given that the characters are supposed to know what they're doing - this is not one of those POV films where every shot is made with the shakiest of shaky cams, until the more impressionable members of the audience get sea-sick. Instead, the first two thirds of the film are mostly believable as footage made by TV people shooting raw footage for a larger news feature, and do a lot to give the movie a real sense of place. The underground locations where much of the film takes place in are of course inherently creepy (as these places always are), and having them shot with an eye on composition and mood only increases that impression. There's still the sub-genre typical running around in the dark and screaming into a shaking night-sight camera in the film's final act, but to me that seems to be the proper and dramatic way to use shaky cam.

Wonderfully, The Tunnel does not live off its locations alone: director Carlo Ledesma and writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey have a good grip on their film's pacing (just have a look at how the after-the-fact talking heads and voice overs appear less and less the more intense the action in the POV camera segments get), and more importantly show a real sense for cheaply doable yet very effective moments of horror of the sort it'd be cruel to spoil.

Like the rest of the film, these moments aren't necessarily original, but they are clever enough, they are effective, and they are part of a film that's just like them.


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