I wish I could say I discovered Death Tunnel myself, but the credit for that goes to my lovely wife, who informed me about this Kentucky-lensed horror film set in Louisville's infamous Waverly Hospital a few months ago. If you've seen photographs of the place, you already know the joint is downright creepy on its own. The fact that someone was actually shooting a horror film there only made my anticipation for this movie that much stronger, especially considering I have a thing for movies filmed in rundown or abandoned locations. Now that I've had the opportunity to sit down with Death Tunnel, I'm very sorry to say that it ranks right up there with Zombie Planet, another pathetic horror film based in Kentucky. Why Sony has decided to distribute this mess is beyond me. But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? Let me backtrack a bit.
Five girls. Five floors. Five hours. Oh, and five ghosts. That's the plot in a nutshell. The filmmakers do make a valiant attempt at constructing a creepy little backstory, but it's really not worth mentioning since they don't spend too much time developing it. The meat of the story is essentially five girls wandering aimlessly throughout the hospital, stalked by an odd assortment of deranged spookies. Think Saw meets Thirteen Ghosts. In fact, Death Tunnel borrows so heavily from other horror films that it borders on outright theft. Is it THAT difficult to come up with an original idea? I understand it's hard to do something entirely different in this day and age, but come on, people! Death Tunnel rivals Malevolence in terms of the number of "borrowed" ideas it crams into its flimsy script. But the disappointment doesn't stop there. Unfortunately, things only get worse once the characters start speaking.
Let's discuss these so-called "actors" for a very brief moment, shall we? The girls, who have the most screen time, are of the typical B-Grade Tara Reid variety. In other words, they're just a bunch of "pretty" girls with vacant stares delivering their lines with the energy and skill of a soap opera extra. That's not to say the guys are any better. Heavens, no. The acting is horrid across the board, complete with the worst Kentucky accents I've ever heard. Good to see the actors did their homework. Good work, thespians! Of course, I'm being exceptionally harsh; there's really nothing for the actors to work with. The soup of the day is Lame Dialogue, and its served up cold.
The film does look good in spots, though most of it seems to have been put together by a high school freshmen suffering from ADD whose parents just bought him a copy of Adobe Premiere. Unfortunately for those in need of a gore fix, the special effects are rather weak. Not only do you get quite a few terrible CGI ghosts, but the blood looks like watered-down A1 Steak Sauce. Considering that recipes for fake blood are all over the Internet, this failure really baffles me to no end. The setting itself screams for a Session 9-style treatment, but it ends up looking like something your local Jaycees puts together every Halloween to scare teenage couples. The set design seems to have been conceived during an all-night Silent Hill marathon fueled by No Doze, beer, and Cool Ranch Doritos. And while that's not really a bad thing, the execution is completely wrong. If they'd found someone who knew how to light a set, then perhaps things wouldn't look so cheap.
Then again, maybe they would.
If Death Tunnel hadn't taken itself so seriously, it may have succeeded as a fun, campy little B-Grade horror film. As it stands, it's just another run-of-the-mill haunted house story told with flashy MTV-style edits and lots of bargain basement gimmicks. While I wasn't expecting earth-shattering effects or even a coherent storyline, I did expect the filmmakers to entertain me. As it stands, this film is a boring, ill-conceived mess that doesn't do anything REMOTELY original in its slim running time. It's too bad, really, because I had very high hopes for it, given its location's built-in creepiness. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are so piss poor they never once realized how inherently spooky the place was before they added all of that dump-bin window dressing from Halloween Express. Alas, I'm still holding out for a competent Kentucky-based horror movie. It's bound to happen sooner or later.