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The Tunnel

Digital Four Stars
Let me hit you with the most exciting part of this film first of all. It's free. The Tunnel is a film that you can download for free, legally. There's no cost to watch it whatsoever, and you can watch it in high definition too.

So the next thing that might spring to your mind is that the film is going to be rubbish, after all it's free isn't it? Well I can tell you it's not rubbish, it's rather good and it did a great job of unnerving me and scaring me. If I were to put it in the genre of the "hand-held footage" type of film I'd say this ranks in the top three I've seen, and I'm not overplaying it.

Let's run through a little history of the making of The Tunnel before we talk about the plot and the film. The introduction on the official site for the film tells us the origins of the project, more of which, including a trailer, you can read about on a previous Filmstalker story:
The Internet was meant to be a tool to connect us. It was meant to break down borders and liberate. Now we have an entire generation who are being labelled criminals for using that tool. But perhaps rather than wasting millions of dollars fighting a losing battle against internet piracy, we should try and find a way to embrace the possibilities that this new world brings…

That's the thought that inspired this project. We believe that if we stop fighting the peer to peer networks, they could become the biggest revolution we have ever seen in the way we share entertainment and information.

After spending years being frustrated by what we saw as the movie industry's short-sighted and conventional outlook towards the online community, we decided it was time to try something different - The 135K Project was born.

So they went about selling merchandise from the film, including frames from the reels and the usual marketing gear, which would bring money into the production. Along with donations they managed to raise money to make the film, and that's just what they did.

What they didn't do is compromise and...well, I'm leaping ahead. Let me just say now that because it's a project that has raised money for itself it doesn't mean that's reflected in the final film, far from it in fact.

Plot.pngTheTunnel.jpgWe're in Australia. There's a serious shortage of water in Sydney and the New South Wales government have identified a potential solution. Beneath the city is a network of old tunnels used for many things over the years from transport to temporary housing for the soldiers during the war, and to nowadays an unsanctioned place to stay for the homeless population, and much of the tunnel system is filled with water.

The government sell the idea of recycling the water and using it and the media are all over it. Then, suddenly, the story stops and the government stop talking about it, completely stonewalling any mention of it. There are rumours to do with the massive homeless population in the tunnels not willing to move and of some of them starting to go missing.

One reporter, new to the news team, sniffs a story. She gets a producer, cameraman and sound engineer and they head down the story, a story that leads them into the tunnels and some shocking revelations.

TheFilm.pngThe first thing that I need to address about The Tunnel is the quality of the film and how it will slot in with other "found footage" and "hand-held first person" shot films, and the answer is clear, it fights for the top slot well. The reason for me is that there's never a feeling of the characters being forced to hold the camera point of view to keep the story going in the first person perspective.

It doesn't feel like Paranormal Activity (Filmstalker review), forced into decisions against character and all human instinct, it does feel as though most of the situations are forced in films like that, however The Tunnel nails it almost perfectly, they manage to make almost all of the footage feel as though it was naturally taken.

What doesn't quite work for me is the footage from the newsroom security cameras. It's close, but there's just a little feeling of this being forced into a film whereas we see other scenes in the office where the camera is on for testing and calibration that works perfectly well.

I never felt as though I was being taken out of the film as I have been with other films of this type, and that's the key to why The Tunnel works so well. That and the fact that the production values seem much higher with some strong footage mixed with the feeling of watching a documentary.

I think that's another strong aspect of this film as it tries to mix the footage and the story with interviews of the main characters where the actors perform convincingly and the production values are higher, building the framework of the story around a documentary feature looking back on the story and the footage.

That move elevates the film from the likes of Paranormal Activity and makes it something more, it adds weight and drama to the core of the story and with the actors performances during the interview and some of the back and forth between their separate interviews, we feel as though we are watching a documentary and the anticipation and drama is built through more traditional means before we hit the first person footage.

All this work to build a feeling of documentary, of reality to a degree, and of stacking the drama and tension up before we get too deep into the hand-held acts of the film, really does work well and come the time when we're racing through the tunnels, the tension is at a high and you can feel it.

What I also liked is that come this point there's still a slow and considered pace, there's not a desire for instant scares and the all too often used musical built moments followed by sudden in-your-face scares, Paranormal Activity was filled with that and made it formulaic and very dull. The Tunnel doesn't and in fact they keep events off the beats so you may be expecting something to happen and it doesn't, it just keeps tension building.

This just isn't delivered just a few times, this is the standard throughout, the scares don't come on the expected beats and when they do they are slowly built and shown clearly rather than the sudden, sharp few frames of something strange leaping out of nowhere. For the most part we see a slower, clearer, creeping terror.

Overall.pngYou can easily let the free aspect of this film override everything else about it but you shouldn't. Of course it's free, people who wanted to see the film have paid for it, and those who are still watching it are helping pay off the rest of the film, but that doesn't mean it's a cheap film, far from it. The Tunnel works, and works so well it's running up in the top three of films in the same genre.

The addition of the documentary angle elevates the film and it avoids all the standard found/lost footage and hand-held horror/thriller films. Rather than settle for those stock scares they've taken a more careful and considered approach to the scares, and it works well.

You also have to give credit for what they've done with this film, how they've earned the money and spent it and what they've turned out, and more than anything the fact that they're giving it for free.

Don't think that because it's free it's a bad film, far from it. The Tunnel is a strong thriller/horror that will scare you and not make you think too much that people are running around trying to film something in first person.

Buy the disc or download the film for free from the The Tunnel Official Site
UK IMDB Details




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