The effects are impressive and the over-dubbing is good enough that most characters you’d swear were speaking their native English on Shudder’s Russian release, “The Superdeep (Kolskaya sverhglubokay).”
But you don’t even need to take the (super shallow) cheap shot that any horror film titled “Superdeep” serves up to pick apart this slow-walked bore. It’s acted, filmed and shot in ways that spoil its limited dramatic/suspense/fright possibilities, a classic 85 minute movie wrapped in a 103 minute package.
It’s the sort of movie where there isn’t much point noting the supporting cast, because you just know this officer, that junior officer, this scientist and that lab tech aren’t going to be around for long. Picked off, like Poe or Agatha Christie characters, one by one.
Anya (Milena Radulovic) is an epidemiologist with empathy issues in the last Gorbachev years of the Soviet empire. She has little problem “following orders” when things go lethally wrong with a vaccine she and colleagues are hastily testing in the opening scene.
Will that come in handy when she’s called in for an emergency at a super secret “deepest bore hole in the world” outside of snowy Murmansk? Something’s gone terribly wrong in a lab and research station buried some 12,000 meters down. She is to “collect samples” from bodies and “leave any rescue mission to the World Health Organization.”
As the WHO doesn’t even know about the lab or what it’s up to, well, just do your duty, comrade.
But one stunned survivor of the accident staggers up to her and lectures her, without knowing her name, credentials or orders.
“There’s nothing worse than betraying our principles!” Although she assures him “I took the Hippocratic Oath,” he, she and we assume it’s the Russian version. First, do what the State says, not “first, do no harm.”
As Anya, an epidemiologist sans facemask (Russian shortcuts) makes a rapid (unpressurized) descent into the Superdeep, she sees “Demons live here” graffiti and hears “It’s hell down there, Hell!” from others. “Superdeep” goes wrong, step by slowly-taken step.
There’s a catalog of camera angles and edits that help most horror films create empathy for characters, build suspense and even reach for pathos when the worst happens. Writer-director Arseny Syuhin either never watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or even Jon Amiel’s “The Core,” or simply didn’t feel the need for this strategy as he wasn’t worried about those built-in problems for any “creature feature.”
There’s a lot more to making an effective thriller that sending a pretty scientist to be tested, physically, morally and ethically in an alien environment than “The Superdeep” that he made. The film lacks urgency, stakes, deaths that matter, the works.
But again, the hurtling elevator (up, and down) effects and over-familiar human bodies taken over by something viral and inhuman effects are top tier.
And kudos for Samuel Stewart Hunter for getting the Russian speakers’ words in English (he adapted the dubbed dialogue) to come close to matching the movements of their lips.
Aside from this, “The Superdeep” is a super bust.
MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence
Cast: Milena Radulovic, Sergey Ivanyuk, Nikolay Kovbas
Credits: Scripted and directed by Arseny Syuhin, English adaptation scripted by Samuel Stewart Hunter. A Shudder release.
Running time: 1:53