Take a huge dose of Session 9, more than a few inspirations from Saw, and trot out the ridiculously old "college hazing turned horrific" concept that was old hat back when Hell Night hit the screens (which was 1981), and you're left with Death Tunnel, an aggressively over-directed and underwritten piece of wannabe horror tripe. And it's not even bad enough to be "fun bad," either.
Five hot college girls agree to spend the night in a horrific old lunatic asylum, while a few snickering boys pop through the background and try to scare 'em but good. Yawn. The girls simply wander around, clad mainly in underwear, perpetually yelling each other's names, their collective aimlessness punctuated by sentences like "this isn't funny anymore," before a listless kill scene occurs and we get a few glimpses of otherworldly weirdness. And on and on and on... So if I told you that the "sanatorium" turned out to be haunted by actual ghosts, as well as a slasher-type dude dressed in a gas mask and a big garbage bag, I doubt you'd express much in the way of surprise or amazement.
What I find amazing is that a flick this awful could land a DVD deal from Sony, but hey, that's just me.
First-time fraternal filmmakers Philip & Chris Booth have one small asset on their side: They got access to the amazingly creepy edifice known as the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, which is a predictably run-down, deserted, and terrifying building located in Louisville, Kentucky. Other than their creepy location, though, the Booth brothers are shooting blanks.
Putting aside the fact that the screenplay is 11 parts rehashed and plagiarized horror hokum and that the flick contains some of the most amateurish acting performances I've seen in years, Death Tunnel is directed with an epileptic approach that coasts right over irritating and borders on maddening.
Not content to let its one-note story ferret itself out in a linear fashion, the flick offers a collection of insta-flashbacks, -forwards, and -sidetrips -- without ever stopping to notice that not one of the subplots, regardless of time frame or location, is even remotely fresh, exciting, or scary. A bunch of girls wake up in their asylum room and then *whammo* we're hit with a fascinating flashback to the party that preceded their hazing rituals. Why? To make the thing run a full 90 minutes, I suppose.
The filmmakers also help to distract from the aimless directorial stylings by employing all sorts of camera trickery, stuff like speedy-flipout-face-cam and goofy blood-splatters on the lens and all sorts of Tool video-style silliness. It's not just that Death Tunnel is cheap, derivative, and clearly made by folks with more enthusiasm than talent; it's that Death Tunnel is the horror flick equivalent of elevator Muzak.
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is pretty darn solid for a no-budget indie that employs a truckload of kitschy, corny, and ineffective little camera tricks.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, with optional subtitles in English and French.
Death is in Fashion is a 2-minute reel of snapshots of the flick's actresses dressed in skimpy (and often bloody) undergarments.
Death Tunnel: An Inside Look at the Movie is your typically self-adoring look behind the scenes of a low-budget indie horror flick. It runs about 20 minutes and features a lot of unintentionally amusing interview segments with the cast & crew members.
Should you choose to look, you'll also find a bunch of behind the scenes photos and production stills, as well as a handful of trailers for Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, Dirty, and Underworld: Evolution.
Every time I get my fingers on the latest no-name, low-budget horror flick, I feel a small, geeky surge of excitement. Perhaps this one, I often enthuse, will be a tight-fisted little chiller that I can help hype to all my fellow gorehounds of the world.
Sad to say that it took less than 15 minutes of Death Tunnel before I was sinking in my chair, painfully annoyed by the flick's outright theft from much better movies, its outlandishly unconvincing acting performances, and a directorial style that pretty much reeks of ineptitude. Basically: Just because you have a tattered old lunatic asylum in your neighborhood that really freaks you and your friends out ... that doesn't make you a filmmaker.