Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 09/06/2021

THE SUPERDEEP

Fact meets fiction in spectacular style in The Superdeep, the latest moody sci-fi/horror hybrid hailing from Russia in the wake of last year’s surprise hit Sputnik. In the real world, the Kola Superdeep Borehole was a Soviet-scientific drilling project on the Kola peninsula close to the border with Norway that was attempting to drill as far as possible into the Earth’s crust. Drilling began in May 1970 and was ultimately abandoned in 1985 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the interim period the project managed to dig over seven miles into the planet’s crust and for over two decades the borehole remained the deepest manmade penetration into Earth’s surface in human history. The Superdeep suggests, however, that the project was shut down for an entirely different reason, picking up on popular local urban myths as its narrative explains that in 1984 inexplicable scream-like sounds were recorded at a depth of more than 12 kilometres. A scientific/military expedition led by Milena Radulovic’s ethically-questionable epidemiologist Anya is sent to the site to find out what lurks down inside the borehole and immediately on arriva,l it’s clear that something is very amiss at the Kola site.

  The Superdeep undeniably has elements of genre classics like The Thing and The Abyss and even last year’s less-memorable Underwater in its DNA but it’s also very much its own thing, a moody and often quite dour body horror story (director Arseny Syuhin excels in recreating the very grey and concrete aesthetic we tend to associate with  Soviet Union-era Russia) that takes the audience to some dark and queasy places. Something very nasty is indeed lurking inside the borehole in the form of a rapidly-spreading fungus and a lifeform that thrives and develops in a very particular and satisfyingly horrific style. Terrific and genuinely-icky physical effects, a refreshingly old-school approach in an  era of CGI overload, carry the film to a tense and heart-stopping finale, which is literally a race against time to stop the underground horror reaching the surface and spreading its tentacles across the surface of the whole planet.   The Superdeep differs from its Hollywood counterparts in that the ‘hero’ figures are painted in very broad shades of grey (perhaps appropriately) and, ultimately, it’s up to Anya to set aside her own ambitions and her ethical ambiguities to work for the great good of humanity as the unspeakable and genuinely horrifying secret of the borehole threatens the future of humankind. In many ways, it’s not an easy watch; audiences used to the pace and spectacle of ‘mainstream’ cinema might find it  a little laboured and its visual look a bit too drab, some might find its dubbing rather clumsy and the music soundtrack jarring. But The Superdeep is a darkly brooding affairs delivering a unique and visceral experience even as it riffs on familiar themes and ideas.   The Superdeep is available on Shudder from June 15th.