Friday, June 3, 2011

The Tunnel (2011)

Aussie Horror Goes Underground

It's tough to be original these days. Writers and directors are chomping at the bit to put out fresh and unique horror films for their fans, which is tough, considering that the horror community is easily the most critical group of rabid filmgoers in existence.  It's even tougher when your movie uses a "gimmick", because it will be compared immediately to its better or original predecessors. The Tunnel is one of those films. Using the "found footage" technique utilized by films like The Blair Witch Project and [*Rec], The Tunnel will leave some judging it harshly as the "same old shit" (a quote taken directly from the illustrious IMDb message boards), whilst some, like myself, find it quite the achievement in low-budget filmmaking. Oh, and did I mention that this movie is completely free to watch and own?

The story is told through a blend of interviews and found footage, centering on a news team, led by investigative reporter Natasha (Bel DeliĆ”) (who somehow consistently transforms from sexy to old maid every five minutes) who is attempting to expose a government coverup regarding Sydney, Australia's underground tunnel system. Years prior, Natasha was covering a story about how the government planned to convert the abandoned tunnels in to a water recycling system, but the project itself was abandoned with no press whatsoever. Learning that a number of homeless living in the tunnels had recently vanished, Natasha assumes that there's a juicy story waiting below the streets of Sydney. The only problem is that nobody wants to talk about it and getting the story will be a challenge. Lying to her team that they've been given permission to film in the tunnels, the crew sneaks into the underground labyrinth where they soon learn that someone, or something, is lurking in the shadows with them. Will they get the story they came for, or will the story get them first?

Made on an extremely low budget of $135,000, The Tunnel is definitely a hidden gem in the "found footage" sub-genre. Not only does it boast an insanely atmospheric setting, it's well written with realistic characters, dialogue, and a less-is-more approach with the scares. What I immediately noticed is how well the crew behaves like an actual film crew. Some of the shots in the film are being directed by the cameraman and producer, directing Natasha past metal gates and through the tunnels with her acting as if they weren't there. They film B-roll when they're not busy and their soundman even takes time to record atmosphere and noises that can be used in post-production. It's little things like this that build a realistic foundation around our protagonists who appear to be actually doing their job and not just wildly filming, transforming them from easy targets to fleshed-out characters we hope to see survive. But obviously, not all of them will. The "lurker" is rarely shown except in fast paced or distant shots, drastically enhancing the intensity of the moments it does make a welcomed appearance.

Also, most notable about the film, is that it's been released for free on the internet. The filmmakers have released a torrent of the film and are urging people to pirate it with no repercussions whatsoever. This is a landmark step in independent filmmaking, as piracy is generally frowned upon by studios and directors. So, how does a low-budget film like The Tunnel make its money back? The film's creators have come up with a slew of creative solutions for this. On their website, you can purchase a 2-disc hard copy of the film or a digital download, as well as bundles that come with soundtracks, posters, etc. The most interesting offer is to buy a frame of the film for only one dollar. Given that the movie is digital, you won't have a literal piece of film to put in your trophy case, but you do get a high quality download of one frame with your name and frame number on it to do with whatever you wish (see my purchased frame at the end of the review!). With 135,000 frames total (close to 50,000 have been purchased thus far), it's easy to become a part of cinematic history and support the film. The idea is that the film cost 135,000 dollars to make, so if everyone buys a frame, the film will make its money back based on fan participation, making a huge statement for both independent filmmaking and peer-to-peer sharing/torrenting.

With genuine creep-out moments, solid acting, and a dread-instilling setting, The Tunnel is a remarkable film to behold, especially when you consider that it looks far better than its budget would lead on and that it's been kindly released to the horror community for free. So grab a bit torrent client and get your free download of this film. What do you have to lose?

Note: I highly recommend watching this movie at night, alone, and in the dark as it's a very dark movie and will more effectively make your skin crawl if you're alone.

For more information, please visit

4/5 Stars

My purchased frame! Love the drunk eye/mid-sentence shot that I got!
I also felt the need to post this screen cap for obvious reasons. Yum.

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