The Tunnel

Director: Carlo Ledesma
Starring: Bel Delia, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 90 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Horror themes, violence and coarse language

The tunnel (or tunnels) in question are those below the stations and tracks in Sydney’s underground system, specifically St James station. These tunnels can be the opportunity for scary movies like Death Train, Creep, The Escape or even The Taking of Pelham 123 films. And, so they are here.

This film was a collective enterprise of backers buying shares for a small budget production. It was also delivered to audiences on-line as well as screened on Foxtel. (For those watching it at home, a recommendation is to turn off the lights and watch it in the dark – you will really be sharing the experience of the characters underground, their sense of menace and of fear.)

It begins like a television documentary with a TV announcer introducing a current affairs item about the development of Sydney’s water supply through a lake in the underground. We are then told that the project was mysteriously dropped and not talked about at all. A television crew is introduced via some home movies and banter and jokes which is a good way of establishing the central characters. They begin to interview a homeless man who has been in the tunnels but he weeps and rushes away. At this stage, the film becomes a reconstruction of events with two of the participants serving as talking head interviewees explaining what happened as their edited footage is shown.

Although we have been alerted by the opening with the recording of an emergency call from a station, it is now that the real purpose of the film becomes clear. With technology nods (and more) to the handheld cameras and style of The Blair Witch Project, the film is one of those fictions dressed up as fact, an account of some paranormal activity.

The real model for The Tunnel is Rec, its sequel Rec 2 and the American adaptation, Quarantine. In these films, we have a television crew, journalist and camera man going into a building and recording the weird and brutal events they encounter. The TV crew offer a basic credibility that cameras would be in these situations and filming. (And the actual camera man for the film plays the fictional camera man.) The Tunnel also has a producer and a sound engineer in its crew. There is a combination of ordinary lighting, but much of the film is night camera work, green, blurry and eerie.

There is a fair amount of repetition in the early part of the film as the crew explore the underground. Then mysterious things happen and one member disappears. Should they search for him without extra help? Of course not. But they do – and, of course, things get worse. There is a certain plausibility, however, for the audiences as the journalist and the cameraman are continually intercut offering their narrative in close-up. We know they have survived. But, how? And what or who was down there?

So, not a bad Australian contribution to the horror pseudo-documentary genre. (And, we keep asking, uncomfortably curious, what are those tunnels like in reality!)

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