It’s rare these days for a movie’s publicity to get it just right but the advance blurb for The Tunnel, the new Australian found footage thriller, is surprisingly apt. Described as The Blair Witch Project meets Death Line (or Raw Meat on the actual blurb – presumably Australians saw that particular 1973 Gary Sherman classic under its US title) this is indeed a movie that combines a couple of people with a video camera wandering around far away from home, and something quite horrible lurking in the tunnels beneath a major city – in this case Sydney.
There’s a drought, and so plans are made to use the vast quantities of water that have pooled in the network of abandoned train tunnels beneath the city. After some initial plans are made the government scraps the idea with no explanation. There is talk of the homeless using the tunnels as living space but this certainly isn’t the whole story. A television crew of four led by the reckless and ambitious Natasha Warner (Bel Delia) decides to go down without permission and find out what’s really going on. As they journey deeper and deeper into the tunnel complexes it becomes apparent that something is living down there that has a taste for human flesh, and that not all of them are going to make it out alive.
The Tunnel is well made, builds very slowly, and does a good job of introducing its characters and of slowly developing a sense of menace once we’re underground. The filmic influences that it obviously wears quite proudly on its sleeve have already been mentioned, but in other respects The Tunnel is rather different. This time our camera crew is not some happy-go-lucky band of adventurers or someone with the kind of over the top bloke-fixation on a new camcorder that we see in the Paranormal Activity films. The protagonists of The Tunnel are more akin to the doomed explorers of Ruggero Deodato’s seminal Cannibal Holocaust, in that they are seasoned television professionals, at least one of whom has already blotted her copybook and is out to prove she’s got what it takes in the world of television journalism at all costs. The film is low budget but professionally made, and the entire enterprise has been put together with integrity. It’s always distracting to see YouTube and CCTV footage in 2.35:1 widescreen when the original screen aspect ratios of these recording media would actually add to the verisimilitude, but that’s a minor quibble. A slow burner of a picture with a satisfying payoff, The Tunnel is far better than the average example of the found footage sub-genre and is definitely worth a look by fans of the above mentioned movies.
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
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