Conceived by writers/producers Enzo
Tedeschi and Julian Harvey as the flagship project for their newly
formed production company Distracted Media, The Tunnel created a
significant amount of online buzz when first announced in early 2010.
Billed as ‘Australia’s first crowd-funded
horror/thriller feature,’ the project was to be funded in part by
selling off the finished film’s estimated 135,000 individual frames for
a dollar apiece. Furthermore the movie was to eschew traditional
distribution in favour of being uploaded in its entirety to BitTorrent.
While the audacious financing plan was only partially successful – to
date just over 35,000 frames have been sold – The Tunnel
nonetheless went into production as scheduled. The end result is a
slick, engrossing thriller that more than holds its own against other
low-budget pseudo-documentaries of the horror genre such as
Paranormal Activity, The Fourth Kind and The Blair Witch
Project, to which it is indebted for both its overall style and
manner of execution. Along the way its producers also garnered a
distribution deal from Paramount, and the film will be making its
appearance on DVD in Australia in late May.
The premise revolves around the NSW
government’s 2007 ambitious plan to utilise the water trapped in the
disused train tunnels under St James station as a means of combating
drought and water shortages in Sydney. Announced with a moderate amount
of fanfare, the plan was quickly quashed with little explanation and a
number of conspiracy theories and urban legends soon sprouted.
Sensing a cover-up, investigative
journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) led her crew into the labyrinthine
underground sprawl. There quickly followed a descent into unimaginable
horrors – using ‘recently declassified tapes’ shot by the camera crew
and a series of candid interviews with the few survivors, Tedeschi and
Harvey’s eerie and supremely atmospheric opus purports to
tells exactly what happened deep inside the tunnels.
Directed by Filipino-Australian Carlo
Ledesma, heretofore best known for his award-winning short films such as
2007s The Haircut, The Tunnel stretches its minute budget
(a reported $135,000) to the limit. There’s nothing cheap or slipshod
about the finished product and the majority of the performances are
first rate, particularly Deliá as the intrepid reported in search of a
career-making scoop. The Tunnel will be released on both DVD and
BitTorrent in late May 2011 (initial reports suggested 19 May, my DVD
copy states a release date of 26 May) and is highly recommended as both
an accomplished piece of horror filmmaking on a shoestring and an
example of inventive 21st century marketing. Many within the
industry are waiting with bated breath to see whether the gambit pays
off – if so, The Tunnel could revolutionise the way films are
financed and distributed in this country, no mean feat. The fact it’s a
pretty damn good flick won’t harm its chances either.