The Tunnel. 2011. Directed by Carlo Ledesma. Screenplay by Julian Harvey & Enzo Todeschi.
Starring Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Ben Maclaine, Peter McAllum, Shannon Harvey, Arianna Gusi, & Russell Jeffrey.
Distracted Media/Zapruder’s Other Films/Dishs
Not Rated. 90 minutes.
Father Gore always has time for found footage. Even better if it’s in the faux-documentary style. The Tunnel is the story of a documentary crew heading, unauthorised, into the tunnels underneath Sydney, Australia. What they wind up finding is more than a government cover-up of overspending and waste.
While this does follow a familiar path, bringing to mind the groundbreaking Blair Witch Project, there’s a genuine air of unease that follows the characters as they go headlong into a mystery they don’t quite understand. Found footage can often lose tension to the shaky camera, screaming and other too loud noise, among other things. Here, the tension holds up, and the documentary style takes us through the various stages up to the sinister events which the crew experience.
Perhaps why The Tunnel is so effective is because it takes on a real world issue, crafting an interesting plot within that familiar story constructed as a news exposé. The natural feel of the characters, the homeless people they encounter in the tunnels, the story of the tunnels themselves, this all builds up a whole world for the film instead of just feeling like an isolated environment for 90 minutes.
The faux-documentary lends an air of authenticity to the film, so the events which lead up to all the genuinely creepy horror midway through feel natural, the characters seem real. Best of all, the organic traits of The Tunnel make this better than three-quarters of the found footage out there, avoiding the typical “Turn off the camera” arguments and the expected moves of a lesser film. That being said, certain aspects, in the end, are the same we’ve seen before. Luckily, it all builds and releases a heavy dose of tense fear.
Unique locations add to the film’s feel, made possible by the plot itself.
The whole thing is just like an investigative series you’d expect to find on the BBC or another similar network. There’s an almost Gothic atmosphere, as the news crew venture deeper into the tunnels below Sydney there’s a sense something ancient, amongst mentions of the tunnels having been used as air raid shelters during World War II. Long before the evil down there becomes more concrete later on, it’s a s if the place is a haunted house, only in the form of a series of tunnels, homeless squats, and forgotten spaces lost to time.
Things take an eerie turn with Trevor the homeless man’s scene. Unnerving. Early on there’s a gut feeling something isn’t quite right, prior to any other hints of terror. Once the news crew start experiencing scarier and scarier events, recalling Trev’s brief but memorable freak out comes with the knowledge this man was giving them a warning without words.
It might’ve been nice to at least get a tiny bit of elaboration on the evil lurking down in the tunnels. However, the way it’s left for what it is on the surface is a testament to the trauma of people like Trev, the other homeless who are left shells of themselves – if they’re lucky enough to still be alive – and are unable to articulate the monstrosity of whatever’s down there.
Simultaneously, we can dig out our own meaning. WWII, the Holocaust, these were modern events which shaped the world, not merely Germany. After these modern warns, the psychological traumas of people suddenly took off, generational or otherwise, and largely they were forgotten. Because post-WWII was a time of celebration, when fascism had been defeated and the world looked hopeful, full of opportunity. Our societal ills were hidden; or, society wanted to keep them hidden. This leads us to the homeless, who’ve literally crawled down into the forgotten tunnels of the war, a fittingly metaphorical space for them.
And down there, a danger grows, some brutal mutation. It feeds on the homeless, the forgotten and discarded people of our collective society. The government doesn’t care too much because it’s solving part of their problem without doing the work; out of sight, out of mind, right?
The Tunnel genuinely freaked me out. It follows a lot of similar veins as the found footage classics we know and love. Yet it doesn’t go to all the same places, it plays with our expectations from the documentary standpoint while offering up nice frights weaved through the plot while we see it play out via found footage, the tapes shot by the crew themselves. This mix is something I really dig in the sub-genre, and it works for director Carlo Ledesma.
Sure, if you don’t like found footage already, you’ll probably not like this one, too. But give it a shot. This doesn’t suffer from many of the mistakes other similar films do, it’s a smart and well paced piece of work. Ledesma’s pacing is rhythmic, lulling us into a comfortable feeling before bringing out a creepy moment or two until finally falling all the way into a chaotic finale.
Might be a great flick for a group of people in October. You’ll all jump at least once or twice. The characters aren’t archetypes, they’re actual people, flawed and full of shit sometimes; other times, they’re intelligent and raw, honest. Things get emotional, they get weird, and what’s down in those tunnels? Pretty chilling. You could almost see The Tunnel as an unaired special on a news networks, uploaded years later to YouTube as part of a conspiracy people try to unravel.