Reviewbr> “It's going to have a harder time taking us out if we stick together” - Pete
Facing falling water reserves the New South Wales Labor party look to recycling water from a huge reservoir underneath Sydney. Apparently a lake exists down below and is accessible via disused tunnels that catacomb the subterranean netherworld. Opposition claims that the development of the reservoir will lead to the evicting of the homeless living in the tunnels is meet with the argument that no one lives down in the dark. There is plenty of media coverage of the recycling plan, but strangely it dies out when the Politicians stop talking about water recycling. No reason is given for the abandonment of the plan.
Reporter Natasha is immediately onto the story and wants to know why the sudden all quiet on the Western Front is going down. She quickly learns that, yes there were homeless people living in the tunnels, and more ominously a number of them have disappeared without trace. It's not long before Natasha, sound recordists Tangles, cameraman Steve, and producer Pete, descend into the catacombs below Sydney to try and put a story together. Natasha hasn't informed the others that she hasn't received editorial permission to go ahead with the investigation. Unfortunately the story is about to find them as something that thrives in the dark awakes to their presence!
For those with limited access to the internet The Tunnel is the brain child of Writer/Producers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey. The movie is the first released under the intriguing “135K Project”. Basically all 135,000 frames of the movie are being sold off at $1 per frame to cover expenses etc with the film being released simultaneously on torrents download, via disc, and through television. Certainly an ambitious concept and we wish the Film makers the best of luck with that one. For the purpose of this review I hooked a hire copy, my local library sure loves stocking Aussie horror titles, and thus have a total of $25 remaining in my The Tunnel expense account. Doing my part for the internet release, use the contact form from the top menu and tell me whether I should purchase a DVD copy for the ScaryMinds library or buy 25 additional frames. Okay dokie back to the actual movie kids!
Director Carlo Ledesma kicks festivities off with some camera shenanigans that had me leaping up and high fiving my imaginary friends. Ledesma hits Sydney with some interesting angles and glimpses of City icons so we know the time and place in pretty quick order, an example of very solid concise movie making. And just in case you thought that was all the Director had up his sleeves he morphs a scene into an old black and white photo of the tunnels under Sydney being constructed. Right there a money shot and we haven't even got into the movie proper. This would be an example of your Audience being overly catered for. I was immediately dragged into the movie.
Ledesma quickly moves to a pub in the inner city where we meet our major characters as they celebrate a birthday party. Each character talks directly to camera as The Tunnel puts it's “found footage” credentials on display. We have Natasha, the young and brash reporter who lacks experience. Steve and Tangles, the knock about cameraman and sound engineer. And finally Pete, an experience Journalist who has seen it all before and who is after a big story in China. Natasha will directly throw a spike into Pete's plans adding an immediate element of group tension.
We are gradually introduced to the story, via news footage, people being interviewed post movie events, and security camera footage. Ledesma is at pains to build his real world atmosphere, by and largely achieving that with a minimum of fuss. Okay the first block of the movie may seem drawn out to Audience members used to Boredwood “a body every ten minutes” approach, but it is devastatingly effective in establishing the key piece of information, homeless people have been disappearing in the tunnels. The interview with Trevor, excellent performance from James Caitlin, is vital in establishing the nature of what is going to come. Trevor, call me Trev, is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder leading the Audience to being very uneasy about just what might be down in the tunnels, in the dark.
Once we get down in the tunnels Ledesma's found footage approach really hits you in the head in one one of the best examples of the sub-genre yet to be lensed. We are basically with our four leads as they inspect “the lake”, “the bell room”, and discover that the map Pete obtained doesn't cover the complete extent of the catacombs. As the dark gets deeper, especially with the hand-held camera that doesn't allow us to see what might be at the edge of frames, Ledesma gradually allows his sound-scape to unnerve the Audience. Even worse the sound engineer is hearing things in his “cans” that we can't. If you don't like confined dark spaces, then this is a waking nightmare, that is unrelenting in tension and atmosphere. One of those movies that have you wondering if you really want to see what happens, and which delivers on the promise The Blair Witch Project (1999) tantalising held up but failed to nail. The Tunnel is the real deal, prepare to have a huge chill run down your spine during viewing.
When Ledesma finally does unleash his “stalker”, the name given to the person/creature living in the tunnels, it's through glimpses, half seen images, and fragmented vision. We gradually learn the creature is big, incredibly fast, and has a vicious streak that makes a Coalition budget spokesman seem like a big fuzzy bunny rabbit! By only giving us glimpses of the denizen of the dark, and never explaining the origin – did I hear genetic modification? - Ledesma creates an iconic monster for the Australia dark cinema. I double dare you to watch this movie alone in the dark and not jump ten feet in the air during certain scenes. Ledesma had me entranced with The Tunnel as I experienced perhaps the most terrifying ride I have even been on in Australian cinema.
I've purposely left out a whole bunch of plot stuff when discussing this movie, as I don't want to ruin The Tunnel experience for readers. There's a lot of interest in the group dynamic, how people react to the situation, and how the surviving three react when the first of their number is taken. But suffice it to say Ledesma is pretty unrelenting in presenting his frames, the score is jettisoned, reactions are very realistic, and what the surrounding dark might harbour is constantly preying on your mind. Carlo Ledesma has made arguably the best ever found footage movie, and considering his budget it's a major achievement.
Way over my word limit here, cause I suck and all, but a quick thumbs up to the entire cast, awesome performances from all involved and damn fine casting. I should also mention writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey break with the horror standard and actually have characters who aren't completely idiots, they even decide to stick together when the brown stuff hits the fan. What on earth were Tedeschi and Harvey thinking!
So clearly I'm freaking impressed, one of the best dark genre movies it's been my privilege to watch since agreeing to review for this site, and I'm not even going to beat around the bush in giving a full recommendation to The Tunnel. A perfect movie to watch after midnight, in a quiet house, with no lights on. Hang onto your linen kids, Ledesma is taking no prisoners here.
The official site can be found right here. $1 frames still available at time of writing and get your order in for the DVD.