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“The Tunnel”, out shortly on region 2 UK DVD via Arrow Films, is an Australian horror of the found footage variety, following a journalist and her camera crew poking around in the old rail tunnels beneath Sydney. The film has an interesting history, having been part of the ‘135k Project’, a scheme which aims to fund films by getting audience members to pay money in advance to buy digital frames from the finished production – in theory allowing directors to make films without having to worry too much about potential box office returns. Directed by Carlo Ledesma (helmer of the shorts “The Last One”, “Locked” and “The Haircut”), the film won a variety of awards, including Best Australian Director at the A Night of Horror International Film Festival and Best Use of Social Media at the 17th Annual AIMIA Awards.
The film revolves around a fictional 2007 decision the by the New South Wales government to suddenly abandon a drought relief project to recycle water from the disused rail tunnels beneath Sydney. Suspecting a cover up, journalist Natasha (Bel Delia) decides to investigate, and enlists the help of a 3 man crew (Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davies and Luke Arnaldo) to accompany her down into the network of derelict passages and old air raid shelters. Soon enough, they soon find out that reports of homeless people disappearing are only too real, as they are pursued by a vicious someone or something.
As a found footage horror, “The Tunnel” goes all out to try and convince, putting a lot of work into its backstory and working in a great deal of fake television sequences, CCTV, security tapes and interviews with its main shaky camera footage, not to mention frequent reminders that no police or government officials agreed to be involved. As a production, the film certainly represents a respectable and very interesting effort, having managed to deal with not raising enough money for the planned budget, and having a bold distribution model that included being available for download via BitTorrent as well as being shown in cinemas, on television and released on DVD.
The film was also obviously well planned, with some excellent location shooting that makes good use of the inherently creepy tunnels, which goes some way to helping convince that it might possibly be real, surely the ultimate goal of any found footage chiller. Ledesma does a solid job as director, and though the film drags during its scene setting first half, most of which could probably have been trimmed, once the poor saps finally get down into the tunnels things really pick up. Although not exactly frightening, from this point onwards the film is atmospheric and visually impressive, especially given its budgetary restrictions, and the last twenty minutes or so of night vision chase scenes are reasonably thrilling, if not up to the standard of “Rec”. Without giving too much away, the film’s use of its devil is effective enough, and though a bit more explanation or even suggestion as it to its nature and story might have helped, Ledesma successfully manages to leave a few interesting lingering questions that may or may not be answered in the planned sequel.
Unfortunately, the film also has its share of flaws, which undermine much of his good work, chief amongst which is the decision to intersperse the action with interviews with the survivors, who also provide occasional narration. As well as interrupting the film’s pacing and flow, this has the major drawback of letting the viewer know right from the start who lives and dies, negating any real tension or the possibility of surprises. Making matters worse is the fact that, as is sadly usual for the genre, none of the characters are even remotely interesting or engaging, meaning that the many seconds spent away from them being hunted in the tunnel are seconds very much wasted.
Though “The Tunnel” nevertheless remains above average and better crafted than most of the never-ending stream of found footage horrors, these missteps prevent it from shaking off the shackles of the form or from finding appeal outside dedicated fans. Still, there’s enough here to make the prospect of a sequel not unpalatable, and despite its faults the film does manage to raise the pulse rate from time to time.
Carlo Ledesma (director) / Enzo Tedeschi, Julian Harvey (screenplay)
CAST: Bel Deliá … Natasha Warner
Andy Rodoreda … Peter Ferguson
Steve Davis … Steve Miller
Luke Arnold … Jim ‘Tangles’ Williams
Goran D. Kleut … Stalker
James Caitlin … Trevor Jones