The crowd-funding method of film production has provided film-makers a new way to raise money for their creative projects. The most famous of these films is the 2010-released The Tunnel, which was part of the 135k Project used it’s website and social media to sell frames of the film for $1 a piece. The idea being that a 90 minute film has 135,000 frames and thus with a dollar a frame, the budget could be $135,000. The Tunnel only initially raised $36,000 and so some creative decisions were made regarding the film to lower the required amount of money.
The Tunnel begins with talking heads from Journalist Natasha Walker (Bel Delia) and cameraman Steve Miller (Steve Davis). They are recounting the events surrounding an investigation into disused tunnels underneath Sydney, Australia where homeless people had allegedly been going missing. Accompanying their account of events is the video footage they recorded along with producer Peter Ferguson (Andy Rodoreda) and sound engineer Jim ‘Tangles’ William (Luke Arnold).
The Tunnel follows the formula set out by The Blair Witch Project, with naturalist acting and the shaky handheld camera documenting all events. This found footage genre was become very popular in recent years as it is low-budget and thus more likely to turn a profit. Whereas other films have pushed the boundaries of the genre, investigating different approaches, The Tunnel chooses the same basic layout as The Blair Witch Project. In fact, it’s so similar, that you’ll begin to predict exactly what type of scene will come next.
While this approach lacks originality or the sense that you’re watching something truly special, it is tried and tested and through a clever use of sound and visuals, The Tunnel creates a really atmospheric horror film. The ‘thing’ that is causing the trouble and serves as the main antagonist to the increasingly helpless crew is teased, but not revealed until toward the end. This avoids the disappointment apparent in films like Jeepers Creepers and allows the director to maintain a level of high tension throughout.
The use of disused tunnels underneath Sydney is a fantastic envrironment for the film. There are recognisable elements from previous horrors, but they still chilling and are beautifully shot, especially considering the method used to do so. The long, stretching network, referred to in an almost mythical way by the crew really puts the audience in a place and time, which is the key to a successful horror.
Using Alfred Hitchcock’s method of letting the audience create the scares in their mind, the slow-build and reveal teases and taunts and then just when you think it can’t get any worse, it amps it up again. By the time you actually begin to see anything of note, you’ve created something so scary in your mind that you’re desperate to have that fear proved wrong and welcome the end. Then, the reveal is remarkable, chilling and truly memorable in it’s own right.
The Tunnel is a fantastic gem of a horror, which draws heavily on The Blair Witch Project for inspiration, but provides more than enough chills, scares and crushing tension on its own merit. Turn the lights off, sit in silence and prepare to be scared out of your wits.
For those interested in the production method of The Tunnel, check out the official site at http://www.thetunnelmovie.net/