GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Arseniy Sukhin.
Starring Milena Radulovic, Sergey Ivanyuk, Nikolay Kovbas.
Science-fiction/horror, Russia, 115 minutes.
Available on Shudder from 17th June.
The publicity materials for SUPERDEEP, a Russian sci-fi/horror, make a big point of the intriguing urban myth surrounding the sounds heard from within the Kola Superdeep Borehole, the vast underground facility where the film takes place. For years it was the biggest and deepest borehole in the world at 12,000 metres. The original aim was to reach down to 15,000 metres but drilling had to be abandoned after temperatures of 356 degrees Fahrenheit were twice as high as expected. If it’s that hot that far down then the only explanation possible was that the drilling operation had reached the outer edges of Hell. A religious US network picked up on the story, polishing it up with the added bonus that the screams of the damned had also been caught on tape, although these screams were later identified as coming from the soundtrack to Mario Bava’s BARON BLOOD.
SUPERDEEP takes the bare bones of this legend and provides a more rational yet fantastical reason based more in science than the more fantastical aspects of Christianity. Set in the mid nineteen eighties the film follows epidemiologist Anya, who has been tasked with investigating a mysterious event at the aforementioned borehole. Already suspicious to the true nature of the investigation her suspicions heighten as she descends into the depths of the Earth. What she discovers has the terrifying potential to change the world and a race against time is on to stop it reaching the surface.
If any horror or science-fiction film sets itself in a wintry wasteland, comparisons are always going to be made to John Carpenter’s masterpiece THE THING. Watching SUPERDEEP it is at the forefront of the viewers mind, but other recent films, including last year’s SPUTNIK, also hailing from Russia, with its science based female protagonist investigating an otherworldly menace under the watchful eye of her country during the nineteen eighties and UNDERWATER, with its own female heroine facing off against a vast threat in the bowels of the Earth, are also recalled. Director Arseny Sukhin however manages to turn in an engrossing and sometimes tense film that makes a neat side line in recalling the glory days of 80’s and 90’s genre film making with its reliance on extensive practical effects.
While the set-up may come across as familiar the script manages to throw in enough interesting ideas of its own with their own well-paced wrinkles that hold the viewers’ attention. Despite its near two-hour running time it manages to breeze by, mostly avoiding the predictable beats of such films, only slightly stumbling towards the end with a drawn out, long winded climax. Until then it grips and entertains with its arresting visuals and detours into body horror that recall Brian Yuzna and the much-missed Stuart Gordon, particularly their 1986 collaboration on H.P. Lovecrafts FROM BEYOND.
Sukhin manages to take such visual elements and blend them in seamlessly with his own visual ideas; mainly the fiery red illumination which makes its presence more and more as the film progresses but cannot be discussed fully here without going into spoilers, is a more than effective signifier of what Anya and her comrades are up against. A dark edge to the storytelling also makes itself visible by the films end putting a cap on this more than satisfying sci-fi, horror mash up. For subscribers of Shudder, who have picked the film up exclusively for their streaming service, it makes for an entertaining diversion of an evening.