Taking a chapter from “The Blair Witch Project” and a page from 1973 cult item “Raw Meat,” Aussie mock doc “The Tunnel” delivers a pretty good spook show in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath downtown Sydney. The brainchild of writer-producer-editor team Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey, pic was partly funded by Internet-sourced investment and seeded by the duo via BitTorrent on May 18. With same-day DVD release and presentation on Oz cable channel Showtime, this intriguing test case for alternative production and distribution strategies will further defy convention when it commences a limited domestic theatrical run June 9.
Tedeschi and Harvey have broken new and provocative ground by openly supplying their pic for free download on the same peer-to-peer websites used to illegally distribute copyrighted content. By first raising funds online and now inviting downloaders to pay a voluntary viewing fee of however much they wish, Tedeschi and Harvey’s approach in some respects bears comparison with the online marketing of Radiohead’s 2007 album “In Rainbows.” With approximately half a million downloads of “The Tunnel” to date, it will be interesting to see how its various revenue streams perform. What’s certain is that it will be seen by far more auds than could ever have been anticipated using traditional distribution methods.
The movie itself has a tasty hook. Purporting to be based on “true events and police evidence” from 2007, the story centers on a TV news crew investigating links between a controversially aborted government project involving disused subway tunnels and rumors of homeless people disappearing without trace in the subterranean warren.
A tad slow at first, the pace picks up when interviews with traumatized ex-journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Delia) and straight-talking cameraman Steve Miller (Steve Davis) are intercut with material filmed during their unauthorized journey beneath the city. Though many viewers will instantly mark accompanying reporter/second cameraman Peter Ferguson (Andy Rodoreda) and sound recordist Tangles (Luke Arnold) as victims, that does not prevent the film from generating and sustaining suspense once the party starts hearing strange sounds and catching almost subliminal glimpses of “something” in the labyrinth.
Making the most of super-atmospheric locations never previously seen in an Aussie feature, debut helmer Carlo Ledesma is well served by his convincing quartet of thesps. Special kudos goes to Steve Davis, a real-life cameraman who performs impressively while also filming a sizable portion of the finished product.
Only real downside is a failure to reveal anything about the malevolent presence. The less-is-more approach is visually effective, but the screenplay could easily have produced extra intrigue and sent a few more shivers up auds’ spines by supplying some speculation on the source of what’s lurking in the darkness.
Ace lensing on a multitude of formats contributes significantly to the film’s believability as a found-footage item. All other technical aspects are excellent.