Tonight’s film is a step back towards the norm, at least for horror standards. No neck fetus / Indian Shaman waiting to be reborn or aquatic Nazi Zombies trying to raise their daughters. Nope. Just a deformed monster of a man living in the subway tunnels of London. Ah, it almost feels refreshing to watch something that isn’t constantly trying to blow my mind into outer space.
Donald Pleasance stars as a super sarcastic Inspector trying to solve the case of why individuals continue to go missing near Russell Station, including a big wig in the Order of the British Empire (OBE – I had to look that one up). A couple of college students get tangled up in the business, one being an American with no acting talent whatsoever (David Ladd) and the other being just about the cutest girl ever (Sharon Gurney). Peter Cushing makes a brief and mostly pointless cameo that seems to be inserted just so Pleasance and him could argue for a couple minutes – and it is actually pretty funny.
Overshadowed by Pleasance’s wildly out of control character is an interesting and disturbing film. I would say, “Come for Donald, stay for the story” if I were to try and tell someone why they should check this one out. It’s creepy, disturbing and almost Phantom of the Opera-esque. It’s a strange combo for sure. One moment you are feeling bad for the cannibal forced to live in “The Tube” and the next not so much as he puts a shovel through an unfortunate bugger’s skull. Then back to sad as you realize the only words he can speak are, “Mind the doors” no doubt a message coming from the subway train.
Why the deformed killer lives the life he does is just as interesting as anything that actually happens in the film. Apparently, years and years ago a group of worker (both female and male) were trapped inside the tunnel while in its construction phase. The company assumed the people had died and could not afford to spend any money, as they went belly up right after, to investigate. Well, the people WERE alive and spent several generations living in the tunnels and eating rat heads (and each other for survival). Cannibal man being the last of his generation.
The film is low budget, for sure, but manages to provide a very creepy atmosphere nonetheless. The subway is dark, gritty and dangerous. At one point there is an astonishingly haunting tracking shot showing the corpses of the long and not so long dead. It’s one of the finest single-take shots in horror – or should at least be in the conversation. Appreciate the filmmaking, damnit!
While many love Pleasance’s role, I found him to be a little irritating and distracting from an otherwise taught and depraved film. A person can only handle so many wise-cracks and attempted comedic inserts in a horror film. It’s funny at first, but takes away from the impact of what could have been a REALLY scary film. But he is no where near as bad as David Ladd, who is obnoxiously bad to the point I tried to zone out completely when he was talking.
If you are trying to think of similar films, anything in the crazed cannibal world would be comparable – The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn being the frontrunners. But instead of West Virginia you get London.
Snore Factor: ZZZ (Can be a bit slow)