I’m usually not a huge fan of “found footage” movies. Either the camera angle gets annoying, or it’s something we have already seen a hundred times. These types of films seem to be multiplying…perhaps breeding. We literally see them everywhere. They can be successful ( The Last Exorcism, [REC], Troll Hunter) or they can be horrible disasters (The Devil Inside, Paranormal Activity Sequels). You really never know what you are getting into, until you are already invested. Some will argue that this sub-genre of horror is dead, over-played. But I tend to disagree. I think that like anything else, you have to take the good with the bad.
“The Tunnel” hails from the Land Down Under, and takes place in Sydney. In the midst of a severe water shortage, the New South Wales government has decided to turn the abandoned rail tunnels underneath the city into a water recycling plant. But then the plan suddenly disappears from the media, and rumors of disappearing homeless people that inhabit the tunnel begin to surface. Our journalist, Natasha, and her film crew decide to investigate, suspecting some sort of government cover-up. Natasha lies to her crew, and tells them that it’s OK with their boss to take the equipment, and shoot some footage in the abandoned tunnels. Under the impression that if anything goes wrong, the boss will bail them out, the crew reluctantly agrees. They break into the tunnels, and quickly realize that they are not alone. And no one knows they are down there.
Half of the film is shot in documentary style, interviewing our characters, and the other half is the “actual footage”. This clues you in to who is still alive, and who gets left in the tunnels. It’s a different take on your usual horror fare, as you get to meet the survivors at the very beginning. You spend the rest of the movie awaiting the other character’s demise. The “footage” is filmed in both HD news camera style, and hand-held night vision cams.
I gave the film such a high rating because I think that while it followed some of the more formulaic ”found footage” rules, it also harkens back to zero-budget films like “Blair Witch Project”. There are not a ton of special effects, but what is there, is well done. Sometimes what you can’t see is scarier than what is in plain sight. There are quite a few scenes that manage to create tension, even though they are in total darkness. I would think that the director ( Carlo Ledesma) took quite a few pointers from Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, in the fact that so much tension is based on the sheer situation that our characters are in. They are alone, lost, and in the dark-but that’s only half of their problems.
All of the acting was very believable, and the script is well written. These are normal people, that make normal people decisions in the face of danger. That doesn’t mean that they make good decisions.
An interesting bit of trivia regarding this film: It was funded by a “kickstarter” type of campaign through the 135 Project. The goal was to raise $135k, but they allegedly only raised about $35k. It was also not only released on DVD and in theaters, but also legally released through Bit Torrent. I think this whole approach to the business side of film-making is rather innovative. The internet really is a game changer for indie film-makers, and I hope to see more like “The Tunnel” as funding and marketing becomes easier.