Directed by Carlo Ledesma, The Tunnel takes a very realistic situation and turns it on its head in this well-played hand-held horror.
Sydney is suffering a water crisis. The solution? Recycle the many gallons of water which have collected in the old abandoned tunnels underneath the city. These plans, for reasons unknown, do not come to fruition, much to the curiosity of a local news crew who, when repeatedly stonewalled and ignored by the local authorities, opt to investigate the tunnels themselves. However, once down there, things go bad.
Anyone who saw the little seen 2008 chiller Lake Mungo will know that our friends down-under can utilise the ‘mockumentary’ motif to outstanding effect. Using talking heads, vox-pops and archive footage (all fabricated of course), the format adds additional credence beyond the plethora of bog standard found footage movies that have become all too prolific over the last five years.
Rather than being a mere series of events (a lá the surprisingly creepy Grave Encounters), the format allows for a proper narrative with rounded characters and an interesting insight to familiar horror tropes that still remain effective when used well.
The Tunnel is a film that works very, very well. Opening with the recording of a distressing emergency call, the seeds of dread are sown from the beginning and rarely leave room for rest. Tension amongst our group of would-be victims is present at the start with Natasha (Bel Deliá), the leader of the group desperate for a good story, whose no compromise methods rub her colleagues up the wrong way, so when the shit hits the fan, the dichotomy of her duty and her survival threatens the entire group.
Yet the surprise with The Tunnel isn’t just our empathy with our heroes but how, on a majorly limited budget, the film-makers have been able to craft a truly chilling horror film that perfectly emulates the less-is-more approach. Unsurprisingly, Natasha and co find themselves stalked by someone or something and whilst there is a hint of a supernatural/monster element, we never explicitly see what it is lurking in the shadows, bar some seriously creepy night vision footage or gruesome sound effects in the darkness. It leaves just enough to the viewer’s imagination amongst the panic to successfully send a permanent chill down the spine.
Whilst this isn’t in the same league as the likes of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, The Tunnel demonstrates a cunning ability to manipulate the most basic of fears: the unknown. If you like your horrors mostly psychological with scores of atmosphere, you can do much worse than The Tunnel.
Best scene: Whilst deliberating whether to save one of the stalker’s victims, the creature appears behind said victim and breaks his neck (made all the more frightening through the camera’s night vision mode).