Monday, May 30, 2011

Why You Should Watch The Tunnel

A week and a bit ago,
The Tunnel, an indie Australian horror film was released for free online. The creators have taken a daring approach to film distribution, attempting to cover the $135,000 production cost of their film by selling individual frames on their website, releasing a deluxe DVD and organising a couple screenings. A lot has been said already about this side of the project so... let's ignore it all together and focus on the actual film.

The Tunnel is a pretty damn decent 'found-footage' style movie. As such, comparisons to other similarly styled/gimmicky (delete-as-per-your-taste) are absolutely inevitable. Amongst such competition, by my reckoning, The Tunnel mounts a pretty strong defence and, whilst it's by no means the best around, it certainly holds its own. And kicks Paranormal Activity all over the park (although, in truth, that isn't exactly hard...)

The unique selling point in this case is the presentation of the story as a documentary, with talking-heads style interviews with several of the lead characters involved in the story. This, as should be immediately obvious, has a fairly massive downside... You. Know. Who. Survives. I'm not giving anything away here at all (I do seriously hope lots of people will watch this) but, given that we expect people to die in horror films (that's what happens!), the fact that the film makers show us two of the four lead characters talking to the camera from the start leaves the audience to draw some fairly easy conclusions!

Minor documentary-gripe aside, they do succeed in setting up a genuinely intriguing story. With contemporary fears over water-shortages, the New South Wales government have come up with a new plan to use the miles of abandoned train tunnels that run underneath the city for water storage. For various reasons, this leads to our starring group of intrepid (and possibly implausibly stupid...) band of journalists to go exploring in the dark. Sadly, they've told no-one they were going (they clearly haven't seen 127 Hours). And they're staggeringly under-prepared and under-equipped. Even Theseus took a thread with him when he went into the labyrinth!

Needless to say, all sorts of tragedy, violence and scary noises ensues.

Again, I don't want to go into too much detail about what actually occurs. The camera wiggles, night-vision comes and goes, screams and cries echo through the tunnels. It's stylishly and competently put together and puts their sub-Sydney environment to good use. The only criticism I can really level at the film, however, is that with such an interesting background story created for the film, much of the detail and interest gets forgotten about from around halfway through. They're not the only ones who do it - District 9 forgets entirely about its mockumentary format from about 30 minutes in - but it did leave me wanting a little bit more from the story. I'm not the kind of viewer who likes to be spoon-fed an easy solution, but having interested me in the story, to forget about it was a bit of a let down. Perhaps, like the creators of [REC], they intend to reveal a lot more of the story, the causes, etc. in a future instalment. Perhaps they don't.

Either way, The Tunnel is a well-made, decently paced and enjoyable film. It's interesting, genuinely creepy in places and leaves you wanting more (or though not in an entirely positive way). Oh, and did anyone mention that it's free?

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