Directed by Rob Green
Produced by Daniel Figuero
Written by Clive Dawson
Director of Photograpy John Pardue
Music by Russell Currie
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Charley Boorman, John Carlisle & Jack Davenport
1.85:1/English/United Kingdom/NTSC Region 1
Review from the MTI Video/Redrum Entertainment DVD
We all have those little things in movies which bother us, and here's one of mine: (Now, stick with me here, it's kind of complicated) I hate it when a character in a film is from a European country and in the context of the film, they are speaking their native language, but we hear it as English. Nine times out of ten, this character will speak with a British accent, be they from France or Denmark? Why? If they're not going to speak English with their native accent, why even have an accent? This pet peeve of mine is only one of the problems which shows up in THE BUNKER, a promising psychological horror film which leaves many of its best ideas underground.
The story takes place during World War II, specifically October, 1944. As the film opens, a group of German soldiers arrive at a bunker near the German-Belgium border, to find it occupied by only an old man, Private Mirus (John Carlisle) and a teenaged boy, Private Neumann (Andrew Lee Potts). The soldiers -- Corporal Baumann (Jason Flemying), Lieutenant Corporal Schenke (Andrew Tiernan), Sergeant Heydrich (Christopher Fairbank), Lieutenant Krupp (Simon Kunz), Private Kreuzmann (Eddie Marsan), Lieutenant Corporal Ebert (Jack Davenport), Private Franke (Charley Boorman), Private Engels (Nicholas Hamnett) -- report that they were ambushed by a group of American soldiers and need to seek solace in the bunker. They soon realize that they are cut off at the bunker and that their central command can't help them. Private Mirus begins to describe the series of tunnels under the bunker, relating the story that the site was once used as a mass grave during the Black Plague. Convinced that the Americans could infiltrate the tunnels, the soldiers begin to explore them, but those dark corridors hold a sense of forboding and the men begin to see and hear things, which may be linked to an atrocity in their pasts.
At the outset, THE BUNKER is quite accessible, as it's very reminiscent of SHOCK WAVES, ALIEN3 and THE CHURCH, and is also quite close in it's themes to BELOW. It also offers the unique perspective and looking at World War II from the side of the Nazis, as we are so accustomed to watching the Allied soldiers in action. The first hour of the film works very well, as director Rob Green and writer Clive Dawson slowly turn up the tension. At first, the men must deal with the simple fact that they've nearly escaped being killed in battle. Then, they realize that they are more-or-less trapped in the bunker. From there, emotions begin to rise and factions form, as the soldiers begin to explore the spooky tunnels. As each man begins to experience odd phenomenon, it becomes clear that the true danger is inside the bunker. There isn't a lot of action in THE BUNKER, as the film relies more on mood and the performances of the actors. This results in a film which is slowly paced, but interesting...at least for the first hour...
However, the film's confusing climax destroys all of the work done by the filmmakers up to that point. Throughout the film, we are given the sense that the men are hiding a secret and that the guilt of the secret contributes to the hostility experience in the bunker. But, once the secret is revealed, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, the film sets up certain rules concerning the supernatural, and then at the end, breaks them -- not in a clever twist way, but in a "we don't know what else to do" way. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of ambiguous endings, but this film goes beyond that. It seems that the makers of THE BUNKER simply didn't know how to end the film, or how to bring in a payoff for all of the talk and tension that came before, so the film simply ends. This is unsatisfying for the viewer, not only because we just spent 90 minutes with this movie, but if most of the characters are going to die, one would hope that it would be for a good reason. THE BUNKER has a great premise and starts off with great promise, but the film can't maintain the tension that it creates and the ending will have you searching for the remote in disgust.
THE BUNKER surfaces on DVD courtesy of MTI Home Video and Redrum Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Critiquing the image on this DVD is a tough call, as it appears that artistic license was taken with manipulating the picture. All of the scenes in the bunker are very dark and grey. They are often grainy and not very sharp. The overall look is very washed out. However, the flashback scenes, while being soft, are bright and colorful, so I can only assume that the drab, dark look of most of the film is intentional. That doesn't excuse the fact that there is noticeable artifacting on the image and some visible shimmering at times. The DVD carries a digital stereo audio track which is fairly well-balanced and allows for clear dialogue. The stereo effects work well in the tunnel sequences. There are at least three instances in the film (including the finale) where there are German words on-screen, but there are no English subtitles to translate them. I didn't see THE BUNKER in theaters, so I don't know if subs ever existed for those scenes, but it seems very odd to have those words there and not tell us what they mean. The flashbacks may have actually made sense if I'd known what one of the words was.
The DVD carries a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Rob Green, director of photography John Pardue, and production designer Richard Campling. For the most part, this is a good commentary, as they discuss the challenges of shooting on a low budget (some of the soldiers are carrying sticks instead of guns) and they are quick to point out which shots are on-location and which are on a set. They don't really discuss the ambiguous nature of the story as much as I would have liked. (Perhaps it's clear to them). There are two deleted scenes which total a little over 3 minutes. One adds a bit to the story, but doesn't make things any clearer. The "Photo Gallery" contains 10 images. Finally, we have a 23-minute "Making of" featurette which includes a ton of behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with the cast and crew, where they discuss the characters and the story. Don't be fooled by the awesome cover to this DVD. There are no skeletal zombie nazis in the film.
There's no points allowed since there is no extra on this disc.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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