The Tunnel (2011) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
In 2007, in the midst of the drought and water shortages, the NSW State government has unveiled plans to tap into and recycle millions of litres of water trapped in a network of abandoned train tunnels just beneath the heart of Sydney. However the government suddenly goes cold on the plan and it is not made public why. There is talk of homeless people who use the tunnel as shelter going missing, even though the government states that there are no homeless people in there. This, and the silence from the officials and ministers, leads a journalist, Natasha to begin an investigation into a government cover-up. She and her crew Pete (Producer), Steve (Cameraman) and Tangles (Sound Technichian) decide to investigate the story in the tunnel.
It’s day 15 of our 31 Days of Halloween feature and it’s time for more found footage horror. I often talk about how great Australian horror is and today’s movie is no exception. Coming hot on the heels of the 2010’s found footage wave sparked by the release of world wide mega hit Paranormal Activity. The Tunnel takes the same Mockumentary approach used in the brilliant Lake Mungo and tells its own story of a tunnel network that hides a dark secret.
After the government abandons a plan to supply cold water through a network of abandoned tunnels without giving an explanation. A group of reporters begin to investigate the reasons why. Rumours of homeless people disappearing in the tunnels prompts Natasha (Bel Deliá) to take her crew into the very tunnels themselves. The movie plays out like a documentary featuring interviews with the team of reporters and footage of what took place. Again, think Lake Mungo but with a little more focus on the news investigation itself rather than the interviews etc.
A Marketing Hit
It goes without saying that if you dislike found footage horror and mockumentaries, The Tunnel won’t change your mind. In fact, I can’t think of a single movie that will. But if you are a fan of the genre or are just not that picky, this is a great option. Found footage is much maligned but I also feel like it is the home of some serious horror movie making innovation and this film is no exception.
The Tunnel was the subject of a rather bespoke marketing campaign that consisted of frames from the movie being sold for $1 each. This won the movie an AIMIA award for Best Use of Social Media. And also propelled the movie to popularity around the world via the medium of Bittorrent. With a copy of the movie being seeded on the platform and shared to millions of people. This is one of those movies that had a legion of fans before it even hit mainstream release. This is the type of innovation that is so common in Found Footage and so easy to appreciate.
Effective Found Footage Horror
Outside of interesting marketing campaigns and viral popularity. The Tunnel is simply a movie that does a lot of things right. There is a strong focus on build up here and setting the scene. Nothing is rushed here with plenty of focus given to the potential government cover up that is hiding something sinister. And the investigation that takes place into this. For the majority of the running length, this is an almost investigate mystery movie. With characters digging deeper and more information slowly coming to light.
A chance encounter with a homeless person who is seriously disturbed by what he has seen in the tunnels pushes the crew forward even further. Eventually they find themselves investigating the actual tunnels themselves and this where the horror ramps up. All of a sudden the investigation is pushed to one side and we have ourselves a movie that could best be described as The Descent lite. The dark, claustrophobic, tunnels become hell on earth for our cast. And it’s these tunnels that are actually the real star of the show here.
A Brilliant Location
Found Footage lacks in a lot of areas that other horror movies don’t. Special effects, story and scope being a few of those. Carlo Ledesma manages to make up for many of these shortcomings by setting much of the action here in a legitimately creepy and claustrophobic underground maze of tunnels. Whereas the earlier parts of the movie that focus on the investigation and interviews feel both effective and very authentic. It’s the tunnels themselves that really stand out.
They are suitably dark and intimidating while also having a somewhat endless feel. The constant changes of direction and consistently narrow passages that feel like they are closing in on the cast members. Afford the movie a sort of vagueness that has you questioning time and continuity. It’s a nice touch and works extremely well.
We spend an awful lot of time beneath the ground, as well. With the movie not hanging around to get to the exploring. Numerous different rooms litter the tunnels. With toilets, bunk beds and shelters hinting at a history buried inside these subterranean caverns that has been long hidden. The sound production adds to the fear. With characters capturing unheard voices and screams on their recording equipment. Playing it back and presenting it to the viewer as just another horrifying part of the mystery. It is legitimately tense stuff and extremely effective.
Where The Tunnel really excels, however, is in its unrelenting desire to present the movie as fact. Nothing here is done with any hint of irony. The story is written in such a way as to make it almost believable. The mystery at the heart of it is one that only people who had been deep into the tunnels would know anything about. And anyone connected to the event is portrayed as being either horrified by what they have seen or simply unable to talk about it. Lending the movie a sense of realism that many other horror films would be envious of.
A lot of what we see is mundane and inconsequential. But as time goes on and the characters get deeper into the tunnel network. Things only become more and more foreboding. And the movie never once lets up on the realistic presentation and the reactions of the characters. All great found footage horror does this. Lake Mungo and Exhibit A stand out for their dedication to the very same way of telling a story. And the shaky camera style and rough method of filming only make it even easier to buy in to what is taking place. The commitment to a realistic presentation adds to the vulnerability of our cast and adds tremendously to the scares.
Decent Acting and Direction
Acting is fantastic, pretty much, throughout. With everyone being extremely believable and giving it their all when the movie calls for it. Bel Deliá and Andy Rodoreda, as Natasha and Peter, are particularly noteworthy for their tense and believable relationship. Direction is decent with both the latter parts of the movie and the earlier documentary style stuff feeling equally as well done. Despite being such radically different approaches to film making. There is a lot of shaky cam towards the end and it is going to annoy a few people.
Some may dislike the significant change of pace that comes along in the last 15 minutes or so. And the movie deserves a fair bit of criticism for producing a story that isn’t entirely fleshed out. There is a bunch of stuff that goes unexplained here and this is one of those movies that will leave you with significant questions. It feels like there was supposed to be a sequel to this and it is somewhat disappointing that there isn’t. There are a bunch of loose ends and the story isn’t wrapped up properly at all.
Final Thoughts and Score
The Tunnel is simply a very effective found footage horror. One of the better mockumentary style movies and another great example of brilliant Australian horror. It’s not going to change the mind of any who dislikes these types of movies. But its relentless commitment to presenting a realistic story and its fantastically imposing, claustrophobic, location make The Tunnel stand out in a crowd of similar found footage horror movies.