The Bunker (2001)

An unusually persuasive war-set horror movie, this has some superficial parallels with The Keep as a platoon of exhausted German soldiers are trapped in a tunnel-ridden complex on the Belgian border towards the end of the War and stalked by a force which might be infiltrating American troops, the unquiet dead of the mediaeval plague pit upon which the bunker has been built or a semi-supernatural, semi-psychological manifestation connected with an atrocity in which the men have taken part. It seems to set up a central conflict between pill-popping Nazi Schenke (Andrew Tiernan), who keeps insisting on fighting it out, and the humane, sensitive Engels (Davenport), who is set up to be the hero until he is mysteriously stabbed while searching the tunnels and left to be eaten by rats. With the expected ideological argument out of the way, the film concentrates on terror as variously troubled soldiers are drawn down into the tunnels to fight each other or the unseen, ambiguous enemy.

The film refuses to go down the monster or body-count route, though most of the cast don't survive the night, and delivers chills more along the lines of Isle of the Dead than any number of Nazi zombie movies, with the guilt-racked Baumann (Jason Flemyng) emerging as an ambiguous survivor by extricating a youth (Andrew Lee Potts) from Schenke's vision of the future and ensuring that he gets out of the plague pit alive to surrender to the Americans before recalling the sin that united the unit, the execution of a group of their former comrades for desertion. A great deal of the film depends on literal smoke and whispers, with an old-timer delivering a lecture on the evil history of the place and the surprisingly few shock effects set up elaborately with a great deal of suspenseful or atmospheric wandering about in the dark. Art direction, in the makeshift concrete bunker and the skeleton-filled plague pit, contributes a great deal to the overall effect. Directed by Rob Green.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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