Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #194
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 29 December 2011 (Mexico)
Sub Genre: Survival Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 83 minutes
Director: Rafael Eisenman
Producer: Anthony Gudas
Screenplay: Charles Morris Jr.
Special Effects: Mark Villalobos
Visual Effects: Adam Lima
Cinematography: Zoran Popovic
Score: Robert Folk
Distributor: Earth Gate, Schröder Media
Stars: Ross Thomas, Sofia Pernas, Adrian R’Mante, Jeff D’Agostino, Christine Evangelist, Megan Hensley, Adam Meirick, Jack Donner, Inbar Lavi, Chaz Allen, Hayley Goldstein, Kimberley Roper, Christina George
Suggested Audio Molly
Lemon D “Pursuit Thru’ The Darkness”
Most of us have been to a warehouse rave at some point in our lives. Indeed I used to frequent them. Growing up as a child of the ‘E’ generation, I spent countless hours gurning like a newborn infant, whilst waving my glow stick around and pulling all manner of outlandish shapes to the rhythm. At the turn of the nineties raves were commonplace and, back then, everybody shared the same desire; that being to dance and spread the love bug far and wide. In my entire time as a raver I hardly ever saw the first sign of skirmish; it wasn’t foremost in folks’ minds back then. We all just got elevated on music and the unmistakable vibe.
Director Rafael Eisenman’s survival horror centers on one such event, which takes place in an unused military compound. It tells the story of six friends who, after a run-in with a horde of embittered revelers, barricade themselves into the base’s subterranean sub-levels with a couple of stragglers while they regroup and search for an alternative means of escape. Once they descend further into the mouth of madness, they discover they are not the sole inhabitants, as a number of genetically engineered mutants make their presence very much known. Thence commence picking them off one by one, of course.
The first thing which strikes you when watching Underground is that it has the look of one of those late-night Cable movies we flick past; and this makes sense when you take a look at Eisenman’s résumé. He was responsible for The Red Shoe Diaries, a reasonably successful sequence of soft-core erotic fiction which ran on cable for a number of years. His feature is lacking the sheen of larger budget counterparts such as Neil Marshall’s The Descent and instead has the appearance of something made with a specific audience in mind; the late night channel-hoppers who return from raves of their own looking for something to while away a few hours of their comedown.
He stages a full-blown underground rave party complete with incessant techno and arms-in-the air children of ‘E’. In truth he does a reasonable job of recreating the euphoric vibe and thus, when the shit hits the fan as it invariably does by the close of the first act, we are all limber and ready for some good old school survival horror. The dimly illuminated network of passageways has character all of its own and poses the primary challenge to the outcast party-goers as they traverse deeper into its lower levels.
Interestingly, Matt Wilcox (Ross Thomas) and loyal buddy Storm (Adrian R’Mante) have just returned from their tour of duty in Iraq with medic Mira (Sofia Pernas) in tow and are therefore primed for contact, while fellow ravers Eric (Jeff D’Agostino), Jenna (Christine Evangelista) and Evie (Hayley Knight) are less equipped for the atrocities lurking below the unused structure. They utilize their combat training to make sense of the lair and work as a group in locating back-up generators and control rooms to find schematics to aid them in their attempted escape.
Whilst the obvious primary characters are adequately fleshed-out, the others are there purely to act as fodder for the super-human military experiments gone awry and Underground pretty much numbers each lemming beforehand and stays true to form in whittling them down in an entirely predictable manner. To make matters worse, the script is pretty weak, indeed, occasionally downright laughable although, to the young actors’ credit they do give it their all.
They are put to task in gratefully gory fashion and Eisenman adds lashes of gruesome carnage to keep the pace upright. Whilst the effects are largely unremarkable and CGI pops its ugly head up on occasion, kudos must be awarded for his perseverance. It quickly becomes crystalline clear this ain’t gonna be scaling the heights of The Descent and, therefore, it proves a shrewd decision on his part as it has more than enough of the red sauce and resulting injury detail to ensure we remain invested, even though the rickety plot moves from mildly ridiculous to utterly preposterous. He does the best he can from limited resources and his mildly effective set-up to ensure we don’t enter a state of catharsis and this is to his eternal credit.
Once we are introduced to unhinged scientist Gunther (Jack Donner) and Underground plummets to new levels of ludicrousness, he has done the bare minimum in restraining us from focusing on any glaring plot holes or irregularities, of which there are an abundance. It becomes a fight-to-the-death as the remaining survivors search for that elusive top-side exit. Somehow he manages to hold the whole sorry mess together, despite the story line lurching from one unlikely scenario to the next without so much as pausing for a back rub.
With more care and attention, Underground could have been something a little more memorable. Its characters are largely under-developed, there’s an air of inevitability to the dispatches and the plot beggars belief but, all things considered, it still offers a fair degree of excitement and over-the-top shenanigans to warrant a view. Glowsticks at the ready then, only make sure you enter with a fair share of trepidation as The Descent it most definitely isn’t.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: The creature SFX are passable at best, at times it appears you’re watching footage from the lost archives of Demons, only thirty-odd years on and with few enhancements but free-runners are used as the genetic monstrosities and, to Eisenman’s credit, they are remarkably fleet of foot. Multiple lacerations and dismemberment are on hand to sate any bloodthirsty appetites for destruction and there is a standout scene involving an ominous peeper-plucking device which is marvelously grisly.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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