I'm sad to say that I was so totally late to the party on The Tunnel that I almost completely missed it. Apparently it's creators managed to raise the budget for the movie through the internet, which is becoming more and more common lately especially amongst indie filmmakers. Of course it's also possible, and more likely, that it's always been happening, and it's me that is just now finding out about it. Either way, there was a countdown to the film's release, which was done simultaneously on both dvd and as a free torrent download. This is another practice that I would like to see more creators embrace, not because I'm looking to steal their hard work, but because the only real chance I would have of seeing it unless I blindly bought every dvd I came across online. We've all been burned by trailers and dvd cover art before, blindly buying indie dvd's online, especially horror ones, is a risky venture, and I'm not exactly rolling in the dough either if you know what I'm saying.
Back to The Tunnel though, I don't remember exactly where I saw the trailer for it, I think maybe a friend sent it to me somewhere online but not 100% sure. It looked good enough, another in the "Found Footage" sub-genre that is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I decided to look it up. It's then that I came across the film's website and read all about how it got made and saw what all I had missed. Such a shame, I would've enjoyed following along, and even doing whatever I could have to help get the word out. Love the indie scene, this guy does. Anyway, I won't bore you with details that you could easily read for yourself at the aforementioned website, so if you're interested visit it here.
In Australia, the government unveils plans to re-open abandoned tunnels underneath big cities, with the intention of building water recycling facilities to combat a water crisis. Shortly after breaking the story, no further mention is made of the tunnels and the idea appears to be abandoned altogether. Believing that the government is covering up something, a young journalist named Natasha, looking to make a name for herself by breaking a big story, begins to look further into what really caused the government to abandon the plans for the tunnel. After being denied access to the tunnels by the transit authority, she and a small crew of three other guys decide to sneak in and get their story anyway. As they begin to traverse the tunnels, recording footage for their story, they begin to hear strange sounds. Eventually one of their group disappears, and as the others begin to search for him, they discover the real reason behind the cover-up and end up fighting for the lives as they attempt to escape the tunnels.
As stated above, I'm a bit of a whore for the "found footage" genre, but I'm also a fan of documentary style film making, including mockumentary. The Tunnel is a bit of a mix of the two. It begins with a message that some of the footage in the film is actual police evidence, and most of the movie is comprised of this footage. However the movie is narrated by Natasha and another surviving member of the crew as they are being interviewed. So it's like a documentary movie being filmed about a found footage movie. If that makes sense. It works well enough, although it does take a bit away from the suspense as you already know who survives and who doesn't.
As for the movie itself, if I had to use just one word to describe it, that would be "atmosphere". I don't know if it was because the movie was that good, or if I just love found footage movies so much, but this movie had me from the beginning. Dragging me along, dropping little hints that sent my mind off in all kinds of different directions as to what was happening, and giving small sound bytes and almost non-existent glimpses of something but never quite giving it away until it was ready. Seriously, it's almost like this movie was a female. At one point I had all but decided it was homeless cannibals that were living down in the tunnels, but that seemed too obvious so the idea of sewer mutants came about, but then lots of mentions of World War II were made and what looked like a torture room was found, so I began to get excited about the idea of a forgotten group of Nazis living underground refusing to acknowledge the idea that the war had ended, but then there was a growl, and again sticking with the Nazi thing I started to hope that maybe the Nazis had been experimenting with animals and had created some sort of creature with the intention of using it as a weapon, but then again maybe this would just end up being a monster movie, and I was ok with that too. I'm not going to spoil it here for anybody who still hasn't seen the movie, but one of those is right.
Now for the delivery, The Tunnel with all of it's atmosphere and raised questions, which had my mind racing, ultimately ended up disappointing me in the end. While I never expected what happened to be fully explained, I had at least hoped to be given a look at it. You know what you're getting with found footage, LOTS of shaking cameras, quick and blurry turning, and almost incomprehensible screaming followed by darkness and sobbing. I get that, I enjoy that and if that's all that The Tunnel had been I would've been a bit more forgiving. As it stands though, the teases are what ends up pissing you off in the end, as when you are given a quick glimpse, it's never really clear what you're looking at and despite several quick looks, it never gets any clearer.. Remember when you first got a look at the monster in Cloverfield, and it wasn't really clear the first few times but eventually you got a good look at Clovie? Yeah well you never get a good look here at what is going on, and I was disappointed with that. At least with the Blair Witch you never see anything, so you're left to make up your own interpretations, in The Tunnel you know what's there, you just never get a decent look at it. Everything other than that was great though.
I definitely recommend fans of the Found Footage genre to give The Tunnel a watch, especially fans of the Blair Witch's and Rec's of the world. This movie feels a lot like those two. As long as you're ok with no really clear look at what the crew is running from, you'll enjoy this movie. If you hate found footage, this one won't change your mind. As for myself, I'm on the fence here. I definitely enjoyed the movie and at one point was ready to sing it's praises, but the constant teasing with no real payoff left me cold at the end. I enjoyed it enough and will probably eventually track down a copy for the collection, hope it will grow on me if I watch it a couple more times. If nothing else I've seen what director Carlo Ledesma can do and will be keeping an eye out for his work in the future.