Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

This fantastic chiller from director Rob Green is a throwback to the atmospheric B-movies of the 40s and 50s and resembles Val Lewton’s CAT PEOPLE (1942), ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945) and Jacques Tourneur’s NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) in terms of its ambiguous integration of psychological and paranormal horror.
    It’s 1944 and a depleted platoon of retreating German soldiers seek refuge in an isolated Bunker, in the forests of the Ardennes, inhabited by two Volksgrenadier reserves; an old man called Mirus (John Carise) and 16 year old Private Neumann (Andrew Lee Potts). The seven surviving members of the Platoon, that include Sergeant Heydrich (Christopher Fairbank), Lance Corporal Schenke (Andrew Tiernan) and Corporal Baumann (Jason Flemyng), share a secret from the past, which has disillusioned them all in different ways. As a result they no longer work together as a unit or are able to trust one another.
    Once inside the bunker, its dark, dank and foreboding presence adds to their hostilities, and myths surrounding the area’s sinister past, relating to witches and ghosts increases their fears. The soldiers discover a series of tunnels underneath the bunker that may lead to an escape route should they find themselves surrounded by the advancing forces. The survivors decide to split up and investigate the sources of strange sounds emanating from the dark labyrinth beneath them whom they believe may be the opposing forces, and, hopefully, survive the terrifying situation and put to rest the ghosts of the past.
     The ensemble cast do justice to the elaborate layers of Clive Dawson’s script and director Green displays a maturity that belies the fact that THE BUNKER represents his first full-length feature. Green builds the tension builds slowly as we come to recognize the fears and prejudices of the holed up infantry as they attempt to come to terms with the horrors that lie in their past and what may lie in the eerie caverns below. As a result we empathise with their plight (something rare in a horror film in which so many characters are given equal screen time) and become engrossed in their paranoia. The film isn’t gory and, instead, relies on the script and claustrophobic set design by Richard Campling to accomplish its aims; from rat-infested tunnels to a plague-pit filled with the skeletal remains of burnt victims. The soft-focus photography by John Pardue is moody and disquieting, and the combined effects of the production give the impression one is actually in the claustrophobic tunnels with the platoon. Any movie that achieves this deserves full praise for its efforts, Salvation Films are to be congratulated for picking this up (though Nigel Wingrove always did have a penchant for Nazi uniforms) and the production deserves to be a huge success.
    Despite its 15 certificate this 90 minute masterpiece of the macabre will unnerve you more than 99% of the effects-laden stomach churners out there and Rob Green should soon find the big Hollywood boys knocking on his door.

Carl T. Ford


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