I went into this film with low expectations, and to be honest, that’s probably the best way to approach it.
Underground is a low budget 2011 horror film from director Rafael Eisenman. It’s got all your typical horror conventions: running around in the dark, lots of gore and entrails and a plucky hero trying to stop everyone from getting killed. ’Trying’ being the key word here.
Let’s start with the positives. The movie is very well filmed for such a low-lighting flick. The camera angles are generally very good, and keep the plot vaguely interesting. That’s one of the strengths of the DVD, actually. The low-lighting comes out remarkably clearly, and despite what I’ve read elsewhere about it being difficult to make things out, I didn’t struggle at all. Loads of Abrams-esque lens flares add to the atmosphere and production values. Clever camera work (which throughout is quite good, although it suffers a little in the quick action segments from being inconsistent) allows the monsters to sneak up on the cast and you the viewer, giving you a real start.
In terms of the acting, I’ve seen much worse. That’s not to say it’s good, because it isn’t particularly. But there’s only a handful of moments where you find yourself rolling your eyes at predictable or badly delivered eyes. The actors do a relatively good job of a mediocre screenplay.
The editing isn’t bad either. The film’s audio is crisp and clear, and the sound effects and general ambience are very effective at setting up a pretty scary environment. It’s set in an abandoned USAF military bunker, with plenty of creepy ghoulies running riot around the place. The sets are atmospheric, and generally speaking make the film look like it enjoyed a much higher budget than it actually did. The piles of dead marines’ clothing and bones look great.
Now, to the negatives.
The plot makes no sense. Why the USAF would simply leave all these horrible creatures lurking around underground, and then allow a rave to take place inside the abandoned facility is beyond me. Not just me, in fact, it’s simply unreasonable. Add to that the fact that they leave the door unlocked (not an oversight, there are only two doors into the facility) and the air vent grates unsealed, it’s just implausible. Of course, without it, the film wouldn’t happen. It’s really questionable which of those two options I’d prefer.
Furthermore, why the military would leave the mad scientist in the facility – with the film then showing him somehow surviving for two years without food – prompts further questions about the believability of the script. I felt the film weakened considerably after the villain’s introduction. He’s very one-dimensional, and the changes in the monsters from rabid animals to brainwashed soldiers took away from the fear factor in my opinion.
Any attempt at CGI seems to fail miserably. The shot at the start with the helmet sitting in the grass as the seasons roll by looks like a cartoon, and the collapse of the staircase in the facility looks similarly unrealistic. Neither effect is that necessary either, and I can’t help but wonder if excluding them would have led to the illusion of a bigger budget and not taken the viewer out of the realism of the movie. Some of the dismemberment effects are pretty poor as well.
To end on a positive: it’s short. It’s scary. And it does what is says on the tin, it’s a B-movie horror film, and I’ve definitely seen worse attempts at it.