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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Death Tunnel (2005)

"Five floors. Five girls. Five hours."
- Richie (Jason Lasater)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 22, 2006

Stars: Steffany Huckaby
Other Stars: Jason Lasater, Annie Burgstede, Kristin Novak, Melanie Lewis, Yolanda Pecoraro, Brian Dyer, Gill Gayle, Reenie Varga, Annika Klein, Jesse Bernstein, Jilon Ghai
Director: Philip Adrian Booth

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, gore, language and nudity
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 043396133525
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B-B+A B-

DVD Review

In the inevitable wake of Saw and The Ring, vaguely familiar-looking features like Death Tunnel are birthed, with directors and writers (in this case one and the same person, Philip Adrian Booth) borrowing and patchworking ideas and visuals together for yet another 90-minute horror film that kinda sorta looks like something we've already seen. What's good about all that liberal borrowing is that it's not always an awful thing, and I have been known to drone on at length about the positives found in the richly incestuous nature of the horror genre. It's just the way it is.

Here, the high concept description is "five floors, five girls, five hours", and those five girls are a set of collegiate hotties who agree to take part in a game called Truth or Scare, which has them spending five hours in a dark, creepy, and very filthy abandoned sanatorium after waking up with a burlap sack padlocked to their skulls. But that's all part of the fun and games, supposedly coordinated by a handful of college dudes who have allegedly rigged the rundown building with cameras, speakers, and the like in order to scare the tiny nighties right off of the now not quite so willing chiquitas. The game itself wouldn't be the problem if it weren't for some jittery ghosts, disembodied voices, and an odd character in a bizarre leather getup pushing around a rusty gurney.

The overcranked visual element of Death Tunnel may not win any groundbreaking originality points—just because so much of it seems somehow like bits and pieces of something else—but there is a slick way it's all packaged together, crammed as it is with quick cuts and gloopy globs of slime that ooze slowly off the lightbulbs. And that's where the incestuous part of the genre comes in, because Booth chews up and spits out drippy, dark corridors like nobody's business, and even if we already know a few of the girls will meet grisly deaths (and one even showers), there's a part of us that wants the director to drag us through a scary landscape, and he does that here for 80 of the 90 minutes.

The story doesn't have much in the way of expository filler, and Booth chooses to bounce forward and back a few times in order to fill in a few minor plot points, but mostly it's girls running scared through a haunted sanatorium. Things fall apart in the final act, storywise, but I'm pretty much used to that. That kind of thing happens a lot with horror films, and Death Tunnel is not an exception. It's part of the genre inbreeding. But it does retain a strong visual look throughout, and that's what gives this one its draw. Plain and simple: it looks very cool. All of that nonsense about the building having some secret agenda, well I can gloss over that nonsense if I have something else to focus on.

The big coup is that Booth shot his film in large part at Kentucky's Waverly Hills Sanatorium, one mighty scary-looking place with it's own real-life haunted history as a onetime hospital for mentally insane tuberculosis patients, and that seems to be the link that provides the film its "based on true events" tag that pops up during the opening credits. I'm adding Waverly Hills to my list of offbeat family vacation destinations solely on the look and feel of Death Tunnel, so maybe Philip Adrian Booth can get some funding from the Kentucky tourism office.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Director Philip Adrian Booth employs a hatful of flashy visual tricks, mixing distressed film stocks, eerie washed out color levels and other such potentially gimmicky effects, and the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shows off these details quite well. A bit of minor shimmer is evident, but the print is clean, and depth of detail is excellent, balanced by very solid black levels.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Sony has come through with a rather impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, one that is extremely boomy and aggressive, delivering the film's frequent audio jumpscares loudly and with great punch. There are some effective use of the rear channels throughout, filled with all sorts of ghostly voices that move in different directions.

A terrific and loud mood-enhancing audio track befitting a ghostly horror title like this.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, Dirty, Underworld: Evolution
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras are anchored around Death Tunnel: An Inside Look at the Movie (21m:04s), featuring snippets of lightweight interviews with most of the attractive cast, as well as the cowboy-hatted Booth brothers. Plenty of film footage mixed in with the interviews, but the meat of the matter is the talk about the location shooting at the real-life and theoretically haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium, augmented by a couple of spooky locals. Death Is in Fashion (02m:09s) goes more for the ghostly crotch, offering some lingerie shots of the female cast, and in my book that gets old.

A set of three trailers—Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, Dirty, Underworld: Evolution—is included, as is a pair of photo galleries, split into the categories of behind-the-scenes and production. The disc itself is cut into 12 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

On one hand this is not much more than derivative, recycled horror, borrowing heavily from the visual stylings of Saw and The Ring. But the other, far larger and dramatically more dominant hand finds director Philip Adrian Booth not simply as a visual mimic, but as a rather creepy stylist all his own. Parts of this feel like outtakes from a Nine Inch Nails music video, but Booth keeps the edgy funhouse hammer down for 91 minutes, and that's a rarity these days. Filler is kept to a minimum, and Booth piles on the highly stylized drippy, bloody ugly.

A set of impressive audio and video transfers give this herky-jerky jumpscare shocker some real ballast, even if the story gets a tad incomprehensible in the final moments.

Recommended.

 


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