Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , , ,


Runtime: 101 mins

Reviewed by Alasdair Yule

**This review will contain spoilers**

Underground. Set on Guernsey. We open with an outdoor police press conference regarding an ongoing police investigation into the events that took place on 29th October. Some people have gone missing in an underground hospital and everyone wants to know what’s happened. Exciting stuff.

This part made me laugh. Chief Inspector Hamilton’s (Andrew T Hislop) outdoor press conference provides the attendees the most perfunctory of statements ever. He thanks them for coming, which means this press conference is on police invite and they have turned up in the hopes of getting new information, he then gives them no information beyond what they clearly already know and then refuses to answer any of their questions. A better way to present this may have been to have some journalists harassing this police officer on his way to work. The same information can be conveyed, “any update on the plot, Chief Inspector?” and this would naturally allow for the officer’s reticence. Also, people are usually walking quickly when the members of the media are harassing them, this would have given the scene some energy, some dynamism. But no! We’re all standing around farting into the wind, talking one-at-a-time like extras attacking Bruce Lee. A seagull squawks! Does it know where the bodies are? The words “This is not a ghost story” is given weight. And by the laws of Chekov’s haunted gun, means we’ll be getting some spooks! I feel the scene should have ended on those words.

The film is told in the form of found footage. So this is well worn territory right off the bat. But the found footage format accomplishes a number of things, mostly budgetary; no need for professional camera work, this film is in a state of perpetual shaky-cam, on location audio, which – to be fair – does add to the authenticity. The opening press conference is through the journalists lenses. The rest of the film is shot through camera phones. Which leads me to ask; what is the battery life on those camera phones? And where can I buy one?

The opening is somewhat confusing in that it doesn’t tie in with the ending. More on that later.

It’s a bachelorette party and a group of five girls hit the town. There’s a night out montage in the world’s smallest night club, and it comes layered with happy-go-lucky music that’s just not quite right, it’s delightfully cheap and rights free, but cannot possibly be diegetic. I also lost track of which of the girls was filming the night out. The perspective changes arbitrarily throughout.

Following this, the girls are “annoyed” by a guy who asks if any of them have a light. They do! But then he has to go and say something weird, “at least one of you wear a skirt!” Jessica – dressed up as a teddy-bear – retorts “That’s a weird thing to say”. No kidding, especially considering her friend Abby actually is wearing a skirt! This is one of those lines of dialogue that didn’t quite reach the costume department. I’ve seen it happen before, most notably in 2012s Skyfall (that was not a backless-dress Daniel Craig! But at least they CGI’d out the gloves that would have prevented the palm-print activated pistol you had.)

The girls get a taxi, and the driver is understandably less than pleased with their drunken antics, “this is my livelihood.” They ask his name, Bill, and then proceed to mockingly call him “Sir William”. Things come to a head when Jess vomits. In a rather funny exchange, the driver accuses her of having a hat full of sick, to which he is corrected, “It’s a wig of sick”. What breaks the taxi scene for me is that unlike weird skirt man, Sir William has no issue being filmed, yet takes issue with just about everything else.

The girls are ejected from Bill’s taxi offscreen, and we jump cut to them chasing after the fleeing taxi.

I’ll take this moment to say there are some good performances on display here. The actresses effortlessly capture the feeling of a night out. They are believably all friends having silly innocent fun (until they start winding up taxi man Bill). A night to remember.


Guernsey, as you may know, is one of the Channel islands near the French coast, it is also the only British territory the Germans captured in World War 2. Now, after the girls are forced to walk home, they decide to take a short cut. The girls then literally stumble into the abandoned German fortifications, and by literally I mean Ziggy – ironically dressed up like a frog – falls down an open hatch and breaks her leg. But instead of carrying around a limping character for the remainder of the films runtime, the narrative simply abandons her. Far more energetic and scary when our heroines are racing for their lives.

We are lost, in the Nazi underground. And strange things happen, noises, a ringing phone, flickering lights, a pentagram, and a man covered in paint.

“It’s coming from inside the display” – sometimes spelling things out is not as effective as the film thinks it is. The display case is filled with old, WW2 era phones. Just having the girls staring agog at the phone inside the display case would have been enough. This is a case of dialogue where dialogue is not needed.

I wish this film had a larger budget and better scares. The underground scenes of UNDERGROUND were an ordeal to get through. And whilst it shouldn’t go down the “Grave Encounters” route of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, there’s definitely room for more scares of a better developed sense of dread. The atmosphere is no more sinister than actually being lost at night inside a  strange building. The highlight of the second act should not be an old-timey ringing phone!

The lighting, presuming the movie really was shot on camera phone, gets very dark in the bunker and at times, it’s impossible to make anything out. Sometimes we catch glimpses of a green exit light which actually punctures the mood somewhat. The green lights aren’t bright enough to illuminate anything and remind us that reality and the outside world are never too far away.

There’s a lot of running around, a lot of hallways, a lot of echoing dialogue. I have heard that in the James Bond movies, they work out the action scenes first, then fill in the plot afterwards to link the action scenes up. I think this is one of those instances where there was a location first, and they decided to make a film out of it.

The girls find a candle lit pentagram. Haven’t we all? And then they simply leave! It’s revisited, but I think this set could have been part of a reveal.

One hour into the movie and the scares consist of strange noises, a ringing phone, a pentagram and some flickering lights. An hour. In that same amount of time, Dominic Torretto of the Fast and the Furious series would have gone to war with South America. Underground is in no rush to get anywhere. And unfortunately that’s where it goes. Nowhere.

The use of camera phones proves to be an issue. Abby is alone, and goes for a pee. Sets her phone down angled toward the corner she then dives behind to carry out the deed. Why would she not turn her camera off? Oh yes, then we’d miss the building shake and the cameo appearance from the man in WW2 costume. He grabs her, speaks German, drags her somewhere and then shoots her. She’s fine, he disappeared with the gunshot. Nazi Ghosts eh?

They answer the phone and receive clues, in French, as to how to escape. I feel more effort could have gone into making the clues smarter than a dog barking and completing a satanic ritual. The setup asks for something more well thought out and less straightforward. Though, if you don’t speak French then you would be scuppered.

They complete the ritual, somehow. And this is clearly the films big scare, as featured in the trailer, and it comes across rather silly. They have enough make up for one demon hand that gently caresses the faces of two of the girls. And then … nothing. That’s it.

Some people visiting the underground run past the girls, but they cannot see the girls. I assume these are the three “missing” persons referred to at the start of the film.

The girls then run by a barking dog, find Ziggy, then limp out into the morning light. They run into a cyclist who calls for help (all the girls still have their phones which still work – again, that battery life!).

And this is where the statement at the beginning of the film confuses me. The events of the film are clearly two weeks before the hilarious police press conference at the start. But the girls have spent no more than one night in the haunted underground Nazi bunker! Why not tell the press the girls are fine? To add to this is the fact that, after the bachelorette party, the wedding still goes ahead. Nothing was delayed.

There’s an epilogue. One that drags on forever and thoroughly outstays its welcome. The police pay the bunker a visit and hear creepy noises – the devil whispering.

It’s a decent effort, with an atmosphere better than a lot of higher budgeted horrors. But the end product fell a little flat for me. The best part is the interaction between the girls who I really buy are all friends. Earlier, when dressing up, one of the girls reveals security tags on the clothes. It later transpires the clothes were indeed stolen. This was good drama and for a moment reminded me of the character tension in “Ritual”. I wanted to like this film more than I did. But it is what it is. I think I’ll go and make a press conference.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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