Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Death Line a.k.a. Raw Meat

This poster bears stunningly little resemblence to the film. How puzzling.


For a long while, the disused stations of the London Underground have interested me; despite being closed, many years out of service, they're still.... there. They sit, lurking under city streets, completely forgotten by the people who walk past their once-entrances or sit on trains that rush past their once-platforms. Some of them can still be seen from trains, some of them were converted to war-time bunkers and still have propaganda posters on the walls, some them house plague-ridden cannibals, tucked well away from the city's lights.

Ok, so the very last bit may not be strictly true, but it's the central premise of this film.

Hopping cautiously from the train

You can smoke on the tube! Right from the start you know this film is pretty old!

Death Line is a horror-thriller with some pretty funny bits, some pretty creepy bits and one bit that'll definitely make you jump. It's not an excellent story, admittedly, but suspend your disbelief for a second and follow me down the rabbit hole escalator and into Russell Square station...

JUst along from Russell Square is an abandoned half-finished station, called Museum. Whilst there was really a British Museum station once-upon-a-time (closed 1933), the extra uncompleted line underneath and the cave-in that trapped workers in the tunnel are fictitious. According to the film, the working men and women trapped by this cave-in were simply left to rot after the contracting company went bankrupt. What they hadn't counted on was that the trapped workers didn't die; oh no, they lived on underground, drinking the water that trickled through the rocks and eating human flesh. Fast forward a couple of generations and we have an inbred, grunting cannibal stalking the tubes, picking off lone visitors to Russell Square late at night.

It's an odd film. The Inspector (Donald Pleasence) and his Sergent are comic characters, all stout British swearing and drinking, whilst the underground man is genuinely pretty creepy. Both are pretty good but they just don't feel like the same film. It's noticeable that, by the time they finally actually investigate the tubes, Donald Pleasence seems to be playing a very different character.

Someone's about to die

"Yes, we'd better investigate. But first, some tea!"

The speed with which it cuts from laughs above ground to moody scenes underground doesn't really help the horror factor, it just makes it seem boring. One very long shot that pans over all sorts of rotting and savaged flesh, accompanied by only the sound of dripping water is almost atmospheric and powerful but... in contrast to the scene before it, it just becomes a bit dull. Which is a shame, as overall it's mostly pretty good.

Overall, the funny bits are funny, the creepy bits are creepy and the music is brilliant throughout. Only the odd editing makes it seem a little slow. What is perhaps its best feature though, is that we actually feel sorry for the cannibal. This is no crazed beast, the poor guy was born and raised in the dark and only kills to survive. That the film doesn't take the easy route and just make him as disgusting is possible is pretty impressive.

Oh, and the bar scene is amazing.

There's even time for a Christopher Lee cameo

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