The Tunnel is a new Australian horror movie from first time director Carlo Ledesma. It is also the first film made under “The 135k Project” which basically means that if 135,000 people bought a digital frame of the movie for $1 each, they will have covered the budget. The film was also released to DVD (in Oz, but available worldwide through the website), shown on Australian Showtime TV, and in a surprisingly trusting move, onto bit torrents for free. The theory being that if you download the film for nothing, and enjoy it you will at least go and buy a frame. Or tell a friend, and they might. Well, I'll be honest, it worked for me.
The film tells the story, documentary style, of a reporter who wants to discover why the Sydney authorities have suddenly pulled the plug on a project to recycle the excess water in Sydney's disused underground wells, thus helping the drought problems. She is convinced it's because homeless people are living down there but the MPs all refuse to talk and want the story to go away.
So she takes her film crew down into the dark maze of tunnels in search of an answer, or at least proof of people living there which has been denied.
It is through talking heads, and the crew's footage we discover the horrors within. OK, so the technique of hand held and character POV filming is nothing new, The Blair Witch Project opened that can of worms up. But this at least has a film quality to it for the most part, a great compliment to the filmmakers especially due to the budget restrictions. Where other films have left you feeling like you've been spun round in a washing machine for an hour and still expect you to keep watching, The Tunnel mixes the hand held infra red camcorder with the high definition TV camera well enough to avoid this. You get a lot of running feet but thankfully they avoid having snot dripping into the lens.
The underground locations lend themselves to a wonderful claustrophobic atmosphere, and bring to mind the London Undergound as used in Gary Sherman's Death Line (1973) Who has not tried to peer into those dark tunnels and wonder what is beyond?
One thing I would say with the free download, the low bit-rate does cause some pixelation to the very dark scenes, but it is still very watchable, and if you enjoyed it, why would you not want to own the proper DVD to watch it in its proper resolution on your big flat TV screen?
Times are hard, and none more so for young directors wanting to film their vision, so I applaud Carlo for the way he is doing this. He is not asking for thousands of pounds upfront for the chance to be an extra, or have your name in the end credits like some have in the past. $1 from each person who watches the film would easily cover the cost. And should the film end up making money you are promised 1% back of that profit too. It is independent film making the way it should be. Outside the studio system, and as such should be supported as much as possible.
For more information, and to download the film go to http://www.thetunnelmovie.net/ and do not forget to go back afterwards and buy a frame. Just don't be surprised if its just black, it is a film set in a tunnel remember?
(Idea: 10 out of 10!)