Subterranea (2016) (DVD film review).

February 27, 2018 | By | Reply More

I’m a bit behind schedule as I should have reviewed this film when it was released in September 2016. At the time some people really liked it and others not so much. I’m afraid I’m in the not so much camp. Apparently, the plot for ‘Subterranea’ was inspired by the 1997 concept album of the same name by the British progressive rock band ‘IQ’. They are still going strong if you’re wondering.

Anyway, back to the film and the plot, at first glance, is an intriguing one with Bug Hall starring as ‘The Captive’. He was locked in a dark cell as a small child and raised in complete isolation. The poor lad never got to see daylight or another human being during his 20-odd year isolation. One day, without warning, he is released into society with nothing but the clothes he is wearing. While being out in the wide world is a bit of a shock to him, he sets out to find out who he is. Sure enough, The Captive discovers that he’s part of a dangerous sociological experiment. Things slowly build to a confrontation with his nemesis, the ‘Provider’ (William Katt).

‘Subterranea’ is a low budget film having been kickstarter funded. While such a low budget obviously has implications on what they can achieve, the cinematography and score are pretty good. Having said that, things didn’t start so well for me as I had problems making out the dialog in the opening sequence. After the closing of a door and some footsteps, I could hear someone muttering. The screen is completely black at this point, although it does slowly lighten enough for you to see the outline of someone.

The dialog is actually between two men (hurray for headphones!) who are discussing the current status of The Captive just prior to his release. If you turned up the volume to listen to the shadowy figures, turn it down again when the music starts. It’s a sign that things are going to get very loud. The opening sequence is just as confusing for The Captive as it is for us the viewers. There’s quite a few scenes which are very dark. I’m talking about illumination here, not humour.

Shortly after his release, The Captive is befriended by Remy (played by Nicholas Turturro), a petty criminal who’s probably the worst teacher he could have met. There’s a rather quick descent into crime for the unfortunate Captive. Things aren’t all bad however as the well-meaning Maya (Amber Rose Mason) took him into her home. On first viewing, I’m completely stumped by this, though, as I could not make out why she should want to do this or even how they met. Things do become clearer eventually, but it takes quite a while to get there.

While The Captive received some type of education during his captivity from the Provider he’s poorly prepared for life in the big wide world. The problem is that some things, for example, cars, don’t faze him at all, while other things such as churches do. His reactions to things are a bit unpredictable to say the least. I would have thought that spending so long in a dark cell would have played havoc with his eyesight, but he seems to handle daylight OK.

While it is an interesting story, the movie is quite slow-paced and The Captive doesn’t seem especially motivated or in the least bit energetic. He always seems to be led by people or events rather than leading them. There’s also a lot of reminiscing going on which also slows things down. It’s only on the 70 minute mark do things pick up but only for 5 minutes and then it all slows down again.

The end, when it finally arrives, is a long drawn out affair which leaves as many questions as it answers. I think this is a failure of the plot rather than the actors. It’s not the only problem with the plot neither. We are left with a story that shuffles slowly forward with only one brief moment of dramatic action before it settles down for the long nap we call the ending. It’s not a horror story and with its current day setting, not quite a SF film neither. There’s no new technologies, just an unorthodox sociological experiment which was never going to end well.

One last thing as the DVD has a number of special features of which two are ‘Behind The Scenes’. ‘The Making Of Subterranea’ extra has interviews with two IQ band members and shows some initial concept art before moving onto set building. This is followed by a section on the problems of filming in Montana. Things get rather interesting with the screen tests of the cast. There’s more behind the scenes footage before showing some of the post-production work in this extra which lasts for 30 minutes and 31 seconds.

The second is the ‘On The Set Of Subterranea – Timelapses’ and I must admit I found this 11 minute and 42 second extra interesting and enjoyable. As the title says it’s a time-lapse sequence from the set to music and shows you just how much effort is required to produce even a fairly simple scene for the film.

‘The Deleted Scenes’ is quite short at just over 4 minutes but doesn’t really add anything. I would have liked to have known why they were cut as its not shortening the film by very much. Another mystery is the original theatrical trailer extra which was missing from this review DVD. It is available on the Internet though.

The funny thing is that if you watch the film and then watch the extras, it will change your perception of the film if you watch it again. Yes, it’s still quite a slow film but the additional information from the extras make up for some of the holes in the plot. It sort of enhances your overall appreciation of the film and the effort required to make it. Still a poor ending, though.

Andy Whitaker

February 2018

(region 2 DVD: pub: MVD Entertainment Group, 2017. 1 DVD 99 minute film with extras. Price: $24.95 (US),  £ 7.20 (UK). ASIN: B01FIAXKD0)

cast: William Katt, Bug Hall and Nicholas Turturro

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Category: Films, Horror, MEDIA

About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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