In 2007, the New South Wales government unveiled a radical solution to Sydney’s water crisis. Capitalising upon the vast network of tunnels underneath the city, the Water Minister announced the acquisition of recycling infrastructure to make use of millions of litres of water trapped in underground reservoirs. When the project fades from view shortly afterwards, television journalist Natasha (Bel Deliá, TV’s I Rock) begins to investigate the apparent inaction. Her interest is piqued when rumours of the displacement of the homeless inhabitants of the tunnels start to circulate, as well as stories of mysterious disappearances. Stonewalled at every turn by government employees determined to keep the media away, Natasha is convinced the answers lay beneath the city. Pursuing the line of enquiry, she finds her own way underneath central train station accompanied by producer Peter (Andy Rodoreda, East West 101), cameraman Steve (Steve Davis, also the cinematographer of the film) and sound technician Tangles (Luke Arnold, The Pacific) , with the sinister subterraneous experience that follows exceeding their most wild and wicked expectations.
It’s no secret that it is notoriously hard to get a film made in Australia, and the absolute drought on genre films coming out of our big brown flat country is indicative of the type of film that tends to get funded locally. The poor box office returns on last year’s The Loved Ones certainly haven’t done the cause any favours, and the only guiding light over the last few years has been the self-funded Undead from Spierig Brothers. Taking a note out of that book,the makers of The Tunnel have opted to crowd-source the money needed for their film as part of The 135K Project. While the film has been released for free online, supporters can buy a frame of the film for as little as a $1, with over 42,000 of the 135,000 available frames sold to date. While the film occasionally betrays its low-budget origins, the same innovative minds that put together a creative source of funding for their film also have a technical prowess to match their financial acumen. The Tunnel is undoubtedly a familiar genre picture, not too far removed from the other ‘found footage’ films that we have seen over the last few years, but the twist here is that we are not following around a single camera that serves as our eyes and ears, but rather we are given multiple perspectives from a fully-realised group of characters.
The Tunnel uses our expectations against us, knowing full well that we are waiting for a at least one cast member to meet a bloody end by the time the night is out. Yet despite this foreknowledge, Ledesma and cinematographers Shing Fung Cheung and Davis create a palpable tension that is often forgotten on bigger budget slasher films. With barely a single drop of blood shed on camera, albeit peppered with some chillingly post-spilled scenes, The Tunnel still accomplishes its primary aim of scaring the bejesus out of any viewer fool enough to watch this alone in a darkened room. Indeed, if you see one of us without our bejesus, it’s probably because it has been scared out of us by The Tunnel. Once the film has led us into its darkened and unyielding corridors of foreboding, it wastes little time in its swift running time in disorienting us and leaving us to fend for ourselves. Carefully choosing what to show us at various points throughout the narrative, the cast of largely unknown actors also bring an authenticity to a film which will gain attention for its innovative funding model, but remain a talking point long after as what is sure to be a cult classic on the horror film circuit.
The Tunnel was released on torrents on May 19, 2011, as well as in selected cinemas, and on television and DVD. Further information is available at http://www.thetunnelmovie.net/.