The Tunnel (2011)
The Tunnel was released direct to Region 3 DVD on 19th May 2011, much the same as any other low budget horror movie. What made the marketing of this minor Aussie "Mockumentary" horror different to other similar products, is that the distributors decided to make a barebones copy of the film available for download, free of charge. The accompanying viral marketing campaign gained quite a lot of traction resulting in The Tunnel being heavily seeded across Bit Torrent sites and exposing the film to an audience of millions globally. Subsequently, when the movie was then showcased in the US and Europe and commercially released in other regions, its profile had been considerably raised. As a result of this novel marketing campaign and the fact that the movie is a better than average example of the found footage genre, The Tunnel won several awards on the festival circuit.
The Tunnel has a somewhat generic storyline, following an investigation into a government cover-up over an abandoned reservoir project, that intended to use a network of abandoned train tunnels under Sydney. TV journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) and her crew, Peter Ferguson (Andy Rodoreda), Steve Miller (Steve Davis), Jim ‘Tangles’ Williams (Luke Arnold), look for the truth within the subterranean maze, only to find themselves hunted by someone or something. The film consists of video footage taken by the crew on both HD and night vision cameras. Material taken by CCTV and webcams are also used to great effect. Where The Tunnel differs from other films shot in this style, is that it is presented as a completed documentary, and is intercut with "talking heads" from the surviving members of the crew.
Now it could be argued that the format of the film indicates quite quickly who lives and who dies, thus mitigating the suspense. However, this is not the case. It actually adds to the sense of faux credibility. The story unfolds at a measured pace and introduces us to the lead characters, all of whom are quite plausible. Steve Davis, a real-life cameraman, give a very good performance, effectively playing himself and drawing on his working experience. Luke Arnold, makes a suitable foil for him as soundman "Tangles". Director Carlo Ledesma builds a suitable back story regarding the politics of the reservoir project and the aims of the TV journalists before taking the action into the tunnels of the title. The shocks are efficient and subtle. The mysterious entity that stalks the network under the city is kept wisely off camera for most of the proceedings. Less is more in this case.
Once again, Australian cinema shows that it has far greater understanding of the craft of film making that mainstream Hollywood. The Tunnel is certainly formulaic, yet due to a better than average script and measured performances, manages to produce a superior genre offering. Unlike recent equivalent films such as Paranormal Activity franchise, it does not jump the shark when it comes to the scares and maintains sustained tense and threatening atmosphere. The found footage genre, like so many other subsets of horror, can often be no more than a vehicle for lazy and uninspired film making. The key to success in this case is to use the format in an innovative fashion and tell a story from a new perspective. The Tunnel achieves this by maintaining a credible pretence of being a genuine documentary. The framing narrative justifies a lot of the usual questions that arise from this genre, especially the ubiquitous “why keep filming”? Hence, The Tunnel is a superior genre entry and worth seeing by both horror fans and causal viewers.