The Superdeep follows an epidemiologist who is tasked with recovering samples from an outbreak of a disease of unknown origin at the secretive Kola Superdeep Borehole research facility. The location was designed to burrow deeper into the Earth than any previous attempt, but something terrifying may have been discovered.
The Superdeep Review
My two most anticipated films in recent memory upon seeing the first details of the synopses were The Superdeep and Antlers. With all the names attached to Antlers, a promising trailer, and subject matter (Wendigo) that hasn't been touched on much in an effective way, it has been difficult to wait patiently for it. But Superdeep not only boasted an interesting premise, it also teased some body horror akin to The Thing, both in its visceral approach and practical effects. Superdeep also followed a plot that rivals the Dyatlov Pass Incident for best scifi-horror based on true events.
No, Superdeep doesn't at all pretend to be faithful to the true story of the Kola borehole, but that is partly because the true story is boring...in summary, Soviet Russia wanted to see how deep they could dig a hole, it got really hot, they stopped. Where the Kola project became interesting amid horror enthusiasts is there was a recording being tossed around of what sounds like thousands of people screaming that was supposedly captured from a microphone lowered into the hole. It was eventually debunked when someone determined the soundbite was taken from an old horror film, and the mystique of the Kola project quickly faded.
The film decided to take the story in vague concept only and build a scifi-horror film around it. The end result is a mixed bag of good and bad. Unlike other reviews I have seen, I found the mixed bag to fall more so on the positive side than the negative, as I found myself impressed with the effects work and creature design more than disappointed in the execution of the plot and directing. In fact, I think the bare bones of the plot works perfectly for what is being attempted, but the translation in many places fails the story's progression. And the directing is solid and sometimes impressive, but the editing is what kills the pacing in some scenes and causes the film to drag and feel like it is devoid of horror-worthy scenes.
The film simply didn't need to flirt with 2 hours. I rarely say this as I generally love a 2-hour scifi-horror film, but this movie would have benefitted from an hour and a half runtime. There is unnecessary fluff that not only hurts the momentum, but also makes the two largest horror set pieces seem more sparse than they needed to in the overall product. In particular, we didn't need the flashbacks to our lead protagonist's trauma, especially with how it doesn't culminate to anything that we don't gain in the opening scene of the film. Secondly, the elevator is used too often to build tension and excitement rather than the creature and its fungal shenanigans. If these moments were removed or significantly reduced, we would have a good mixture of what I personally love about scifi-horror: gruesome monster action and exposition on what it is and how to stop it.
Despite this unnecessary obsession with the elevator system, the set design is fantastic. It does a good job of building and maintaining its claustrophobic homage to the classics of a similar ilk. The creature design, that reminded me of Annihilation, Leviathan, Splinter, and Oats Studios' short Zygote, wasn't wholly original, but it was executed very well. The commitment to practical effects and smart balance with CG was some of the best that has been falsely promised in other recent films. Yes, there should have been more of it, but there was enough that I was thoroughly impressed with it.
The structure of the plot is perfect for this kind of movie, but the poor translation in some scenes makes you have to think a little too hard about what the survivors are doing and why. If you pay really close attention to their actions and assume a few things, it can mostly piece together, but it can be distracting at its best and downright horrid at its worst. It doesn't help that the dubbing is a bit all over the place, but that's a whole 'nother thing not worth diving into.
Normally it's best to let a foreign film stand on its own and I don't suggest remaking it, but I think an American remake of this one would be pretty amazing (No, The Devil Below does NOT count). If they would retain the commitment to the body horror practical effects, I could see a somewhat more sensible progression of the plot and a few more horror set pieces taking this otherwise good movie to cult status. But, that dream aside, I think The Superdeep stands well enough on its own. I think it is definitely worth a watch for fans of the sub-genre if you can be patient with a few of its apparent issues.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 4/10