Review: Man Underground (Fantasia 2016)

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Sometimes movies don’t need bloodshed, dismembered body parts, explosions or any other visual enhancement. In Man Underground, Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine’s debut full-length feature, the writing/directing duo has encompassed tension, terror and communal chaos via an alien abduction angle. Although shot on a shoe-string budget, this is a non-issue, as adding effects and jazzing it up may distract from the core of its film, the human condition. By blending fantastic writing, superb acting and a haunting score, Man Underground is a successfully interesting and alluring entry in Fantasia 2016.

The story centers on Willem (George Basil), an awkward and reclusive ex-geologist, who had an incident while working for the United States government. Now relocated away from Nevada and in a small town outside of New York City, Willem recruits Flossie (Pamela Fila) and his old partner’s nephew, Todd (Andy Rocco), to create a low-budget movie about his life and the events leading to his paranoid state. The goal for Willem’s film is to spread a message exposing classified secrets about extraterrestrial existence.

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This smart flick uses alien conspiracy as a backdrop for a complex character exposition, delving not only through Willem’s individual concern, but through the relationships he has with Jim, Flossie and the interactions he has with her boyfriend, Francis (Felix Hagen). There is plenty of subtle social commentary throughout Man Underground, especially during an intense scene at a dinner party. The small town versus big city mirco-plot speaks loudly behind the main storyline’s mass amount of themes, including mental isolation, extraterrestrial existence, depression, love, jealousy, friendship, careers and ultimately, retribution.

One of the greatest aspects of Man Underground is the powerful acting from the trio of Basil, Fila and Rocco. They have a unique chemistry that brings forth a multitude of sensation through comedic, horrific and dramatic elements. The cast brings to life the excellent writing, with simple, yet insightful, dialogue that evokes thought and perception. For example, during a simple interaction at a diner between Willem and Flossie, she says “I’m only a waitress.” He replies, “only when you’re here.” There are many other instances where the laughs are belted out or the brain is analyzing scenes through cracks between fingers, as the tension rolls up and down like a sound wave. The phenomenal cohesion between the three augments the power of the overarching ideas, an emphasis which many films lack— especially genre films coming out of Hollywood.

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This indie gem is not for everyone, and many will disregard it for a “boring” movie. I, for one, certainly do not. Borowiec and Marine’s film actually breezed on by, as I was enamored by this unordinary tale of a man’s struggle with no one accepting what his reality is. Enjoying Man Underground all depends on what kind of tea you like, man. If expectations are blood, cheap scares, car chases or any other major effects or action, this may not be your preferred cup. And even though the guts don’t splatter, doesn’t mean this should’t fall under the umbrella of the horror genre.

4 out of 5 Zombie Heads

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