"Like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk."
Last night I watched the Australian found footage film The Tunnel, and at some hour long after that I woke up from my sleep, found my notebook, and wrote that sentence. Somehow I thought it perfectly encapsulated...something about the movie and it would be a great opening for this review. At this point I'm hard-pressed to tell you what the hell it means, exactly, and to be honest there's a slightly pornographic quality to it that is making me uncomfortable. But hey, I have to open this review somehow and if it was a great idea last night then I'm just going to go with it.
To help solve a water shortage crisis, local government announces plans to build a water recycling system in disused tunnels below Sydney. Press conferences are held, promises are made...and then nothing. Without a word or a reason why, the project is dropped.
Investigative reporter Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) finds this curious, but even curiouser when she comes across a YouTube video of some taggers running afoul of something in the darkness of those same tunnels. There have also been rumors of some of the underground homeless population going missing. Is the canceling of the recycling plant related? What's a-lurking in the damp down below the streets of the city? Warner attempts to get some answers, but government officials are mum. She assembles a crew of veteran news-types and decides to get to the bottom of things, so you know what that means: it's P.O.V. horrorin' time!
The crew sneaks into the tunnels and sure enough, they also run afoul of something in the darkness. The Tunnel presents itself as a documentary comprising footage before and during the events, but it's the talking heads reflecting on those same events that eliminate much of the tension of the proceedings as we know by and large who's going to live and who won't. Yes yes, the devil is in the details and the journey is the destination and all that, but ultimately I was just waiting to see how so-and-so died and I knew the other so-and-so was never in any mortal peril. Let's face it, most P.O.V./found footage horror follows a certain pattern; that is to say, there's a fuck ton of aimless-ish build-up and then in the last 15 minutes or so shit really happens ahhhh! The biggest problem in The Tunnel is that the format conceit eliminates the build-up. Sure, there's lots of talking and aimless-ish wandering, but for every moment of tension generated, someone then talks about it and the incline plateaus.
This is not to say that The Tunnel is wholly unsuccessful, because that would be a lie and I'm not a lie-teller. Overall it's a solid film and there are some moments of pull the blankets higher creepiness for sure. Ultimately, though, your enjoyment of it will likely hinge on your tolerance for and/or love of those P.O.V. tropes; you know, people running around panting and screaming in the green hues of a night vision lens.
I'm not going to begrudge anyone who enjoys a subgenre and thinks "Hey, I wanna make me some a that!" Ultimately, however, I feel like this kind of story and format have been tackled before and tackled better in movies like [REC] and Lake Mungo. Maybe I'm just a P.O.V. lover and apologist who needs to take a break and see some other subgenres.
The biggest bummer, though, is that The Tunnel rehashes the "ambitions of career-driven woman lead her to make foolish decisions and doom everyone" storyline of The Blair Witch Project, complete with her dressing-down by male crew members and subsequent teary-eyed confessional of contrition. I'm thankful that there's no dripping snot and ultimately no one kicks the map into the creek, but still. 15 years on and the head bitches in charge are still bitches? What a world, what a world. Totally like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk, amirite?