Ambitious young journalist Bel Delia comes across a possible cover-up involving the NSW government’s plan to utilise the water trapped in disused train tunnels under a train station to help with drought and water shortages. The plan is soon mysteriously quashed altogether. Meanwhile, homeless people are believed to have gone missing in the tunnels underneath Sydney. Accompanied by a fellow reporter (Andy Rodoreda) and two larrikin cameramen (Steve Davis and Luke Arnold), they take a few risks (i.e. Sneaking into prohibited areas) heading underground to investigate the story. Once in the tunnels, though, they experience something more sinister and terrifying than a simple political cover-up.
This low-budget Aussie horror/thriller from director Carlo Ledesma, was initially distributed/uploaded on the internet for free, and has a story slightly based in truth. The resulting film (which I managed to catch on cable here in Australia) is somewhere in between the excellent “[REC]” and the ineffectual “Death of a President” in both style (handheld horror of the former, faux-documentary of the latter) and quality. It’s pretty darn good, but with some noticeable flaws (including end credits that in their very inclusion give the game away- duh!).
The main issue I have with the film is that it is a bit dry. I think Ledesma and writer/producers Julian Harvey and Enzo Tedeschi have tipped the balance way too much in favour of the news and politicised set-up (including a news bulletin read by familiar leading TV newsreader Peter Overton) that, while necessary for realism, makes it a bit dry and dull for a genre piece which it essentially is. In other words, it’s a long while before we get to the ‘goods’, and I’m not sure if horror fans are all that interested in what the Minister for Water has to say. Even “The Blair Witch Project”, a superior effort in this kind of filmmaking that suffered from the same thing, still got us into the meat of the story quicker than this film does. Having said that, the faux-documentary (albeit based on real news snippets and real events to a certain degree- the news story shown on TV at the beginning is real and used as a jumping-off point) style is much more convincing than “Death of a President”, even if I spotted one or two familiar faces from Aussie TV that took me out of things momentarily.
The performances by the principal cast are all quite good (if a bit actory at times), especially the entertaining duo of Davis and Arnold as veteran news cameramen (which Davis, a non-actor actually is in real-life, apparently and shot the underground footage himself). Arnold in particular, as Tangles, is good-looking and charismatic. He might be one to watch, folks. The characters are all believable and far more palatable and interesting than in many other horror films. These aren’t your typical boring, irritatingly vacuous, twenty-something horror protagonists, but seasoned media professionals. In that sense, the long, dry set-up helps in grounding these characters and their situation, even if it runs the risk of alienating less sophisticated viewers.
The handheld camerawork will be too much for some, but for once it didn’t make me too queasy. It’s a bit zoom-happy, but also thankfully varied and unlike the terrible “Cloverfield”, the slight professionalism of the look is fitting. These aren’t amateurs, they’re experienced journos and cameramen. Like “The Blair Witch Project”, the use of sound is very creepy. Slightly unidentifiable sounds are very valuable in horror. I’m a sucker for creepy sounds or creepy images that crop up for a frame or two and can’t be readily explained. The less-is-more approach to the horror is certainly to the film’s advantage. Just giving us a vague idea will make it all the more terrifying and effective. So us Aussies kick a few goals in regards to a few technical aspects at the very least.
Despite some initial reservations about the film’s set-up, this is a very admirable and well-made flick on a meagre budget. Definitely worth seeking out.