We’ve all learned a few things about pandemics lately, haven’t we? And near the top of that list of learnings is this: they’re boring – bloody boring – an endurance race of bad news and liberty-stripping tedium most of us have never had to contemplate before without the fun of first committing a major crime.
But if you’re one of those perverse weirdos who’s spent the past couple of years revelling in the strangeness of it all, playing the Pandemic board game, watching Outbreak and Contagion and The Crazies and 24 Hours In A&E, you might like this Shudder Original because it’s about a mysterious disease threatening the human race and, like a real pandemic, it is very boring. Christ, it’s even set in a borehole.
We’re in Russia in the 1980s, the dying days of the Soviet Union, where crack epidemiologist Anya (Milena Radulovic), riding high on the success of a vaccine she’s developed, is called to the world’s deepest borehole to investigate fungal spores discovered in the permafrost 12,000 feet below the surface.
Based on a real-life Soviet project – the Kola Superdeep Borehole – we might well be watching a spin-off from 2009 movie The Hole as Anya descends into the bowels of the earth in a series of industrial shafts; the kind of thing that might be interesting for people who seek out programmes called Hitler’s Biggest Warship on UKTV Play.
At the bottom of the shaft, it soon becomes clear that the newly discovered fungus ain’t gonna make the menu at your local pizza place. The spores cause bodily mutations in humans, and the place looks like the back pages of Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s doodle book. And from then on, Superdeep is a creature feature: John Carpenter’s The Thing meets Ridley Scott’s Alien.
And that, really, is about as much as can be said about the movie because, after two whole viewings, this reviewer still can’t quite figure out what was going on. That’s not because this is a work of Christopher Nolan genius; more that’s it’s an incredibly poor narrative. The pace, like the scenery above ground, is glacial. The characters are dreary and devoid of personality and the plot is confused.
NME has no doubt that Russian cinema is full of hidden gems – anyone remember 2017’s Guardians, a Russian take on The Avengers featuring an ass-kicking superhero bear?! – but Superdeep is not one of them; it’s simply a cut-and-shut horror that even squanders the promise of its strong female lead the moment Anya strips down to vest and shorts to kick spore butt. It can, at least, claim to be the ultimate borehole movie, in that it’s set in a borehole, it is boring and the plot is full of holes – and that’s the hole truth. Anyone fancy a game of Pandemic instead?
- Director: Arseny Syuhin
- Starring: Milena Radulovic, Nikolay Kovbas
- Release date: June 17 (Shudder)