lot of things about Esben Storm's "Subterano"
puzzles me. The movie is about killer toys that hunt unsuspecting civilians
trapped inside an overnight parking garage. But that's not the most puzzling
thing about "Subterano", even though I'll grant you that the premise
is a bit silly. The real question is this: Why in the world does the movie take
place in the future? Or better yet: Why do low-budget filmmakers keep insisting
on setting their movies in the future?
"Subterano" purports to take place at a time when
(we are told through excruciatingly tedious dialogue) the world is run by a
fascist and cold government, and the rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer
blah blah blah. Alex Dimitriades ("Ghost
Ship") plays Conrad, the head of a terrorist organization that is the
lone voice against the Evil Government. After being scheduled for execution in
front of a live audience (because, you know, that's the first law all Fascist
Evil Governments Of The Future pass when they get into office), Conrad escapes
while being transported and ends up in an overnight garage with ex-lover Stone
Stone is supposed to have arranged Conrad's escape out of
the futuristic city (actually just a city shot at night with neon lights strewn
about) because she was the one who betrayed him in the first place. Of course
things don't go as planned, and soon the garage gets locked down by an unknown
"gamer" who plans to use Conrad and everyone else inside the garage to
test out his latest virtual reality game called Subterano. Trapped with Conrad
and Stone is JD (Alison Whyte), an annoying security personnel; Angie (Kate
Sherman), an annoying girl who worships Conrad; Slick (Jason Stojanovski), an
annoying gamer with a weird-looking cane; and Cleary (Chris Haywood), an
annoying and generally useless drunk.
If you're starting to get the idea that
"Subterano" has as many believable characters as it does believable
"futuristic" landscape, then you're on the mark. Besides Conrad, who
just wants to get the hell out of the garage, the rest of the characters act
like a bunch of, well, movie characters. It doesn't help that every single one
of them is so annoying that you wish they would just die quickly, except
writer/director Esben Storm has other things in mind. Other things like not
giving us any onscreen death until almost the 50-minute mark, when a character
gets his feet sliced out from underneath him.
"Subterano" takes its inspirations from the
Canadian low-budget movie "Cube",
which had essentially one location that it reused over and over. And like the
Canadian movie, the Aussie picture is most effective when it concentrates on
finding clever ways to slice and dice its characters while keeping their mouths
firmly shut. And oh, who couldn't predict that the uptight character played by
Alison Whyte would eventually become more dangerous than the killer toys? Raise
your hands if you saw this coming the first time they introduced her.
The best part of "Subterano" is the creative
direction by Esben Storm, who defies stereotype by being a man in his '50s.
Color me shocked. Movies like "Subterano", with its low-budget and
sci-fi feel, are usually reserved for young men with more balls than brains.
Storm's age notwithstanding, the movie features some very good special effects.
The killer toys are supposedly made up of tiny metal spheres that can form and
reform, making them essentially invincible. (Although a character does discover
their weakness later on.) The CGI effects are quite good and offer up some
impressive eye candy.
If you like "Cube"
you will probably like "Subterano". The two movies share similar
pedigrees, although "Cube"
did the smart thing and completely kept its background world hidden, whereas
"Subterano" dared to explore its futuristic surroundings, much to its
detriment. If you can ignore the pseudo-futuristic technology and clothing,
"Subterano" is a good, violent romp. Although it needs to be said that
the movie constantly shows more ambition by way of irrelevant storyline than it
does concentrating on its bloodletting.
More slicing and dicing and less silly talking about
"the hills" and "orphans" if you don't mind.