The Movie Waffler Screamfest LA 2023 Review - THE DEEP DARK | The Movie Waffler

Screamfest LA 2023 Review - THE DEEP DARK

The Deep Dark review
French miners uncover a centuries old creature deep underground.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Mathieu Turi

Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Philippe Torreton, Amir El Kacem, Thomas Solivérès, Marc Riso, Diego Martin, Bruno Sanches

The Deep Dark poster

The horror genre has escaped the lazy trend of rebooting previously male-dominated movies with female casts because most horror movies have female protagonists to begin with. Writer/director Mathieu Turi's The Deep Dark will likely find itself summed up as "The Descent with blokes," given how similar its basic setup is to Neil Marshall's cult film. Where Marshall sent an all-female cast into the depths of a subterranean cave system filled with monsters, Turi does likewise with a bunch of gruff male miners in 1950s France.

Following an 1856 set prologue in which miners encounter some kind of creature before their shaft explodes (ooh matron!), we cut to 1956 Morocco, where Amir (Amir El Kacem) is hoping to be selected by a visiting representative of a French mining company. If selected he'll be sent to work in a French mine, earning the sort of money he could only dream of in Morocco. After rubbing the representative the wrong way, Amir is indeed selected, but he's sent to "Devil's Island," a notoriously dangerous mine in Northern France.

The Deep Dark review

There, Amir finds himself part of a crew of miscreants led by a veteran miner, Roland (Samuel Le Bihan), who is tough on his men but known for keeping them safe. The crew is given the task of escorting a professor (Jean-Hugues Anglade, now unrecognisable from his handsome leading man days of the '80s and '90s) 1000 metres deep into the mine, where he hopes to make a discovery that will ultimately put everyone involved in grave danger.

The Deep Dark is essentially a monster movie but Turi is burdened by bigger ambitions than simply giving his audience some schlocky thrills. So much time is spent detailing the workings of a mid-century mine that by the time the monster shows up the movie is well past the midway point. I have to confess I found the portion of the film that immerses us in the hardships of mining more involving than the subsequent monster action, but it's ultimately pointless as it has little bearing on the main narrative of miners battling a monster.

The Deep Dark review

While the early scenes convey the claustrophobia and gruelling nature of working beneath the earth, once the miners reach their subterranean destination it becomes all too obvious that we're watching actors on a soundstage. The tunnels are too well lit and expansive to exploit any feelings of claustrophobia.

I'm not sure why so much time was spent establishing the character of Amir either, as once the miners get to work he becomes just another member of the crew for most of the film. When he sees Amir receiving some racist baiting, Roland assures him that once in the mine "we're all the same colour, the colour of coal." This becomes a problem as it makes it difficult to tell the characters apart when they're all wearing the same outfit and covered in soot. The film tries to resolve this by reducing the characters to various labels: the Italian, the Spaniard, the Arab, the fat one, the asshole etc. They're all ultimately just grist for the monster mill.

The Deep Dark review

Said monster is an impressive creation, either stop-motion or a convincing digital approximation of such. But it's also a little too goofy for a movie that takes itself as seriously as The Deep Dark, and would look more at home if it was battling Bruce Campbell rather than a group of acclaimed French thespians.

There are some impressive rubbery gore effects, likely inspired by Rob Bottin's legendary work on The Thing. The highlight sees the monster speaking through a recently severed head, but again it's a moment that belongs in a far sillier movie. The Deep Dark is an impressive showcase for its talented FX artists, but otherwise it's a poor cousin of movies like Aliens, Predator and even The Descent.

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