Spoiler-Free Film Review: “Underground” 

February 25, 2024

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Somewhere in director Lars Janssen’s Underground (U.K., 2023) is a good horror short, but at feature-film length, the project feels heavily padded. 

Ella (Maaike Tol) is about to get married, and her friends Riley (Charlotte Dawn Potter, who cowrote the screenplay with Janssen), Ziggy (Sapphire Brewer-Marchant), Claire (Nadia Dawber), and Jessica (Caitlyn Barber) are throwing her a hen party (a bachelorette party, as it is called in the U.S.), with plenty of drinking as part of the festivities. Their wacky (to this point) evening gets them kicked out of a taxi cab by the driver, and the friends are left to their own devices on a dark road in the middle of nowhere. Armed only with their smartphones, the quintet gets into further trouble when one of them falls down a hole, and the others come to her aid and find themselves trapped in a bunker.

Underground starts off by introducing us to the protagonists, which at first is a solid way to get viewers invested in their characters, but this goes on too long, to the point that they become annoying. Their actions make viewers more sympathetic to the frustrated cab driver than the young women, so by the time they are trapped in the bunker, it is difficult to feel sorry for them. Their decisions and their behavior towards one another make them even less sympathetic. Meanwhile, lots of wandering around in the dark and very little that could be considered scary is happening, including perhaps one of the least exciting scenes involving a seance around a pentagram and candles in memory takes place.

On the positive side, the main cast members give it their all and give performances that feel believable. Janssen attempts to bring mystery to the proceedings, and the cinematography style is a cut above average for films in the found footage vein (to clarify, this is not actually a found footage film; it is, however, shot in a similar style).

Questions such as “What does the dog actually signify, and where did it come from?” abound, however. I don’t give away spoilers in my reviews, so suffice it to say that the initial conclusion of the film is an unusual choice for a film billed as horror, and what comes after that feels tacked on and provides more head-scratching material.

Recommended mainly to found-footage horror completists — who will have seen most of what passes for eerie and creepy in this film already, many times over — Underground is not a bad film overall, but it has little to offer in the way of originality.

Underground receives a UK digital release on 26 February 2024.



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