Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Death Tunnel (USA, 2005)

An independent horror flick that offers more in visuals that it does in substance, Death Tunnel is an easy way to spend the time even if, in the end, it is more chocolate for diabetics than real chocolate. The tag line "Five Girls Five Flights Five Ghosts" pretty much describes the unconvincingly set up storyline, but within this paper-thin structure director Philip Adrian Booth manages to offer enough eye candy (stylistic, horrific and female) to keep the viewer more than interested. Only during the last 15 minutes, once almost everyone is dead and the all-so-important "death tunnel" finally comes into play does the story fully run out of steam and the film fall apart. The last 15 minutes play out and exude the general feeling of a script that didn't know where to go to, that didn't know how to end. And regrettably, as pleasing as any and all the girls involved might be to look at – and they are all hot tamales – the strength of their acting (particularly that of the main heroine Heather [Steffany Huckaby]) is not strong enough to carry the weakness of the film's resolution (of course, by then all the babes are also dead, but for her – sorta).
But then, why should it be expected that some cute but no-name actors are capable of hiding flaws in the film's script and resolution that all Philip Adrian Booth's visual candy-coating and the great location and the mostly effective cinematography are also unable to cover up? In truth, even when ignoring the failed ending, much of the finer points of what happens in-between doesn't hold much water when a thinking cap is worn – i.e., the whole initiation set-up, the choice of the contestants, the painted slips, etc. – so when watching the film one is well-advised not to reflect too much and, instead, to simply enjoy the unworldly mood that Philip Adrian Booth slowly weaves and, oddly enough, one of the most extremely non-linear narratives since, say, Bullets, Blood and a Fistful of Cash (2006 / trailer) or the average Tarantino film. (Dunno if Philip Adrian Booth does music videos, but he really should – and that is not meant to be an insult.)
The plot: "Five Girls Five Flights Five Ghosts." (And, actually, five hours – which is the length of time spent in the building, not of the film.) At some college somewhere where the sweet blondes talk with southern accents and the brunette bitches and singular blonde über-bitch talk non-regionally, some sort of imitation rite is played upon both those who want it and those who don't. The five babes awaken tied and bound and wearing dirty slips in the abandoned ruins of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. (Much of the bad rep of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium that is mentioned in the film is based on fact – including the massive number of an estimated over 63,000 deaths from TB there – but of course the very thin concept of the relationship of the five girls to the sanatorium, a concept lifted somewhat from the dumb but fun 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill [trailer], is pure hokum.)
As the various bonkables try to find their way out, they are confronted with terrifying and deadly apparitions and one by one check into the sanatorium permanently. Ritchie (Jason Lasater), one of the guys who put the whole initiation rite together, also ends up stuck in the building, which facilitates an unexpected love triangle (or two) and an added tragic-love aspect to the film's conclusion.

Of the five girls, the two brunette bitches (Melanie Lewis as Devon and Yolanda Pecoraro as Elizabeth) are either the best actresses or bitches in real life – hell, I prefer brunettes and I found them repulsive despite all their notable physical allures. Ashley (Kristin Novak of Cemetery Gates [2006 / trailer]) is also rather effective and convincing as the vinegar-and-spit blonde poison, and she gets plus points for doing the totally gratuitous nude shower scene and being slimed. Like the nice-girl heroine Heather (Steffany Huckaby), nice-girl fodder Tori (Annie Burgstede from The Anniversary at Shallow Creek [2010 / trailer]) has a sweet accent and looks delectable, but is less than a thespian.... still, I'd let her whisper sweet nothings into my ear anytime.
In short: Death Tunnel, a moody, well shot and occasionally scary film with an excellent location and a few shocks and five hot babes but a flawed non-story. A fine film to pass the evening with – but like most one night stands, you probably won't remember the details a week later.

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