The Bunker

There aren´t very many British horror films released nowadays so I was keen to see how The Bunker would fare. As it turns out the film is an intelligent horror, which makes for gripping viewing. An entirely British cast plays a group of German soldiers who are holed up in an anti-tank bunker in World War II. The Americans are closing in and the bedraggled men are feeling the pressure of imminent defeat. Unfortunately for them there is something else down in the dark maze of corridors below their hideout.

The film opens with the main characters running for cover from enemy fire. They stumble onto a bunker manned by an old man and a very young boy, reservists and raw recruits. The end of the war is approaching and things are getting desperate for the Germans. After a time the remaining survivors arrive and they settle down to make plans. The old man tells them that the bunker has been built on the site of massacred plague victims and that they should avoid the tunnels.

Relations between the soldiers are strained; they have obviously been through a lot together. They all looked authentically grubby and battle weary. The commander struggles to retain authority as the trouble-making young, 2nd in command is constantly popping Benzedrine and seems to be losing control, besides already having a nasty streak. Clearly not all of the men feel in tune with the Nazi ideology, as he does, and there are some nice subtle arguments and opinions without them ever overstating their points.

The whole style of the film was excellent, the setting, uniforms and equipment all looked exactly right and created a harsh background for the story. This film also managed to be a horror, without making the backdrop of war secondary. As of course the greatest horrors we know of do often occur on the battlefield this seems a natural thing to do.

The direction, by Rob Green, is really nice throughout. From the early shot, the first glimpse we get of the bunker, reflected in the lenses of one of the soldier´s binoculars, to the claustrophobic late night discussions of the men as they lay in their bunks. The atmosphere is layered to be tense and there are also some nice scares along the way.

The acting here is probably not the best, but the style and atmosphere of the film is built so well, and the story is so strong that it doesn´t really matter. It was unusual to see actors from British TV in a film like this, some were good, and others were out of their league. The cast includes Jack Davenport, Jason Flemyng and Christopher Fairbank.

The story for the film is surprisingly good. Elements which at first appear cheesy or familiar turn out to be a bit different then expected and the film works well as a psychological horror. The script is strong and for the most part seemed well grounded in reality, building to reveal a satisfying conclusion to the events.

As all of their panic, fear, mistrust and guilt swirls around, things begin to go wrong for the soldiers. Emotions get the better of them and people start to die. This is more a horror of the mind and imagination than a gory affair, but there are a few fairly graphic scenes towards the end, not enough to prevent this getting a 15 certificate though.

This is an hour and a half of fairly exciting and intriguing action, the setting, style and cast all work together beautifully and the direction is noticeably better than in your standard Hollywood release. It is well worth seeing and should be supported as a British alternative to the overly slick, American, teen horrors that currently flood our shores.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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