17 October 2012


Thirteen Things about The Tunnel

13. What surprised me most about The Tunnel was that it's more of a Drama with Conspiracy Thriller elements than a conventional Horror movie.

Until the main characters actually enter the eponymous setting, the conflicts that drive the story are workplace politics and government secrets. A tight-knit group of (male) journalists are not too happy about the new (female) hire whom the (male) boss seems to be giving preferential treatment, while she is after the real reason the New South Wales government has silently abandoned its big plan to use one city's underground tunnels for recycling water. And as reporters might say, it's actually a good story.

12. This is also a Found Footage film--a very believable one. I find it a bit much when characters in similar movies record absolutely everything with personal digital cameras, because that doesn't plausibly happen in real life; but the characters in The Tunnel, being TV journalists, are supposed to do that.

At one point, the camera man even says that the reason he is keeping his camera on is that he has realised a colleague might be leading the whole team into a professional disaster, and he wants everyone else's arses covered. And this is how the movie's arse gets covered, too. Very nice.

11. Another thing surprisingly easy to forgive? The shaky cam. LOL! There's absolutely no excuse for it in traditional Action (and Horror) movies, but it fits Found Footage perfectly.

10. I also like the way The Tunnel is structured as a TV documentary that intersperses the footage with interviews from the survivors. This framing device adds a reflective layer to the story that you normally don't get in the Found Footage subgenre.

9. Now remember what I've been saying about entertainment these days being about us watching ourselves watch each other? (I now have a Watching You Watching Me tab!) Found Footage reflects two curious developments (which some might argue are regressions) in modern entertainment media: the mainstream acceptance of the "Reality" format and the incredible availability of digital technology. In our generation, anyone who has access to a camera and an Internet connection may pass off his life as "Reality" entertainment on his own channel.

So it's actually a twist to the formula that all the leads are professionals who work in the media world. How . . . realistic. =P

8. "Since when does a decent journalist use YouTube as research?" Pay attention to the importance of media technology to the story and to the way the story is told. It is significant that YouTube is not just mentioned by name but also plays a key role. (Media within media within media!)

And remember that every good film is about its own making: it's also significant that The Tunnel was released as a public domain work and is legally available in its entirety on . . . YouTube. =)

7. Back to the human parts. What I love about the lead characters is that they are all three-dimensional--a feat that becomes more impressive when you realise that the writers (and the actors) mostly built their characters from scratch.

The reason we get a lot of stereotypical characters in genre movies is that they're easier to write and to portray: they come with built-in motivations that do half the work for the cast and crew (not to mention the viewer). This is forgiven because we all know that the real draw of those movies are the scares or the villains or the gore or whatever . . . But the real draw of The Tunnel is that it's actually a character driven story. So our leads have to be (and are) fully fleshed out.

6. Well, okay, the newbie reporter checks a lot of stereotypes. She's that woman who has to prove herself in a man's world, the nosy journalist who gets on the government's nerves, the young upstart whom the veterans just can't take seriously, and so on. But what seem like cliches are actually essential elements in the whole movie. It is because she is nosy, determined to prove herself, and at odds with her own team that the story unfolds the way it does.

5. There was only one "human part" I really did not like: the interview with the homeless man who had witnessed something in the tunnels. He has a PTSD episode in the middle of it--and it's so badly acted that it's laughable. I'd say it's the weakest link in the entire movie.

4. The "Twelve/Thirteen Things" format works best for me when I'm reviewing a really cheesy movie, because I'll get to spend two to three "Things" waxing poetic about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the merit of the movie but has everything to do with my happiness, like 80s hair. That's really difficult to do with The Tunnel, because even the character nicknamed Tangles didn't have that je ne sais quoi it's so streamlined and simple.

I also bring this up because I've been thinking of changing the way I blog about movies. As usual, my favourite Horror blogger bar none has been an inspiration . . .

3. The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown has a great format that lets him look at each movie from several different aspects. My favourite: "The Moment That Changes Everything". In The Tunnel, that moment is when they realise a camera has been moved, play the recording back to see if it caught anything, and see that someone had picked it up to film them.

And what's scarier than learning that someone was watching you without your knowing it is learning that someone was filming you without your knowing it. Because then you also get to see yourself through his eyes.

2. But for me, the most awful moment (which doubles as the best executed moment) is that pictured below.

Brought to you not just by the camera on the floor,
but also by the  mobile phone in her hand
and one other medium, for good measure!

We like to think of technology as bringing us closer, but in the end, we're about as close to each other as people pressing palms up against opposite sides of a glass wall. Paradoxically, it takes the impenetrable Fourth Wall to bring us into the scene so that we know as well as the others how horrible it is to watch someone die in front of you and be unable to do anything about it.

1. It wasn't until I was writing this that I realised something interesting about the ending. So that I don't spoil anything (too much), let me just say that it's the kind that is, plot-wise, completely open to a sequel. And yet it is, emotion-wise, absolutely perfect.

Image Sources: a) The Tunnel poster, b) The Tunnel screen cap


Jenny said...

I just have to laugh. Your first point is how I feel about all horror movies. They're totally comedies in disguise. Whenever I need a good laugh I go see a horror movie.

Enbrethiliel said...


Horror imagery can be really tricky to put up on the big screen. What is truly frightening to the imagination of one person appear hysterical to the sensibilities of another. And it won't really be anyone's fault.

The oral tradition and books are still unsurpassed when it comes to giving us all chills!

mrsdarwin said...

Enbrethiliel, you are the only person in the world who could make horror movies (or books) seem appealing to me. One of these days we'll meet up and watch some cheesy (!) horror flick, and I'll laugh all the way through it instead of cringing on the couch with my fingers over my eyes.

Enbrethiliel said...


You, me, and Paranormal Activity: it's a date! =D

christopher said...

Aaahhhhh! I fell for it... I watched it... Let's just say the only one of your 13 things I agree with is #5. But, I wasn't going anywhere, so on it stayed...

Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! Thanks for watching, anyway. =)

The Tunnel is definitely no masterpiece, but you know I'm easy to please.

cyurkanin said...

I'd definitely join in for the Paranormal-Activity-athon, if there can be such a thing: I am a fan of the found footage genre :)