With projects like the upcoming prequel to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon being solely funded through Kickstarter donations it’s only a matter of time before one of these projects hits big and changes the system forever. In the meantime after the recent Absentia showed what you can do with performance, atmosphere and a low budget made up of donations, now we have the Australian internet funded movie The Tunnel.
The Tunnel is presented in the faux documentary format and follows the misfortune of a journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Delia) and her crew (Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis and Luke Arnold) who find an intriguing piece of footage on YouTube that leads then to believe that there may be a story lurking in the sewers below Sydney. They find their enquiries and requests blocked by the water authority so instead decide to enter the sewers themselves through a train station with their cameras.
Tension evaporates somewhat as you realise that the talking head interviews you are watching don’t include certain members of the crew recounting the story. Therefore it’s fairly obvious who will make it and who won’t. Suffice to say the crew find evidence of someone or something living in the tunnels and whatever it its makes its presence known and we catch glimpses of it on the cameras our crew are carrying.
Although The Tunnel may avoid the usual found footage problems in a way by being told in flashback with the documentary format, the footage we see still stretches believability in terms of just how often the camera is carried into a situation and how much water and impact damage their equipment can take. Logic and the survival instinct take a back seat as the crew are dragged around and menaced by something that looks like it came off the set of The Descent.
Another issue with the film is that the characters are not exactly likeable. Natasha is a career hungry bitch who will do anything to get ahead and it’s even hinted that she slept her way to the top. The other members of the crew Peter, Steve and Tangles and the development of their characters seems to stop and start at; they are Australian, they are laid back. A little bit of substance to the crew would have gone a long way towards making The Tunnel leave a lasting impression.
The other major issue (and where things fall apart) with the film is the decision to present this as a documentary, the very idea that there may be something malevolent living under a city filled with thousands of people would create a mass panic and the government authority who block the crew’s enquiries are unlikely to have allowed such a damning documentary to see the light of day. The best thing that can be said about the format is that it reminds you of the superior and similar Lake Mungo from last year.
Despite all of these things working against it, The Tunnel is still far better than many things that come out nowadays with the ‘found footage’ label. The last twenty minutes are also some of the most exciting in a film of this kind since the ending of The Blair Witch Project all those years ago. If more attention had been paid to all of the other elements around the ending then The Tunnel could have been something to shout about.