Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Problems with Being an Urban Explorer: A Movie Review

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Director: Andy Fetscher.

Writer: Martin Thau.

Cast: Nathalie Kelley, Nick Eversman and Klaus Stiglmeier.

Urban exploration is risky business when four international students hire a local guide to lead them through the ruins of old Berlin. In what they find in the tunnels is more treacherous than this city’s sordid past. In the real hobby, many adventurers can find plenty of rustic decay to archive, figurative history to marvel at and graffitti to indicate where others have dare treaded.

In the movie that takes a simple title of Urbex: Urban Explorer, there might be some confusion in what can be examined. To look around inside any old abandoned building can be exciting. But there is more to this hobby than just going underground. Rank tunnels are often a source for many movies on a tight budget and this tale is one that gets detailed. Nazi bunkers were built within this network to withstand the bombings that happened during World War II.

And that history is important in this tale. From tales of a fabled Oden said to be lurking underneath to Neo-Nazis searching for the hidden labs of their predecessors, the history of this particular tunnel system is fascinating. The former may be a reference to the old Germanic beliefs of the land, but sadly the script does not go far in exploring it. Folklorists may not get much from this film but war buffs will. Some of that history is imporant in figuring out why the tunnels are still used even today.

This movie has a well thought out concept.
It sadistically reveals the dangers of getting what you wish. The people Lucia (Nathalie Kelley), Denis (Nick Eversman), Marie (Catherine de Lean) and Juna (Brenda Koo) encounter are hiding for a reason.

The effectiveness of this movie comes from the fact that Denis never tries to be an alpha male or save the day. Try as he might, both him and the gang are enjoying life than learning about it. They are energetic younglings who need a dose of reality. Life is ripe with fun for them, but it will not be that for long. In who they meet, it is a harsh wake up call!

They eventually meet a crazed cahoot, Armin (Klaus Stiglmeier) who probably thinks the war is still is going on. Stiglmeier is fantastic in the role. He delivers the punch that’s needed to make a simple madman villian work. His rat-like appearance gives this oddball character life, especially when he chases after Lucia. Even she begins to feel sadly tormented.

Out of all the other budget films of this sub-genre of college kids getting unlucky, this movie stands out. North American variations just do not quite cut it. Here, the multi-talented director Andy Fetscher, shows he’s willing to experiment and make the colour symbolism work. He provided the cinematography and edited this movie. The red edge split filters used during a few sequences hint at an impending death, and the fast cuts in the more violent scenes keeps the visual interest alive.

The only real fail is the romance angle. While relationships matter in survival horror, this subplot just does not have the development that’s needed on screen to build to that big moment between Denis and Lucia. Fortunately, that does not mean sex.

And as for where Armin is after all this mess, this movie shows the potential of continuing on as a franchise or with a sequel. That’s only if his history gets developed further. This movie features a killer that most viewers will want to get to know. While that can be a dangerous curiousity, some viewers will have to import this video in. The video release is currently available as a region two release.

Overall: 6.5 out of 10.

The film's fan page is here:

Urban Explorer on Facebook

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