I watched Death Tunnel because it was filmed at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in
Waverly Hills is famous for being one of the
most haunted places in the Louisville, KY. United States
(or, at the very least, in the Eastern region of the United States). Living in ,
this intrigued me. I hadn’t heard great
things about the movie, but how often do you get to see a movie filmed in a
haunted building in your very own state?
(Since that is an oddly specific set of criteria, I would guess the
answer is “not very often”.) Lexington, KY
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The set-up was cool enough. They took a cue from the actual history of Waverly Hills and tweaked it to make it more sinister. Here is the basic story of Waverly Hills: it was used in the early 1900s to treat a massive outbreak of tuberculosis. A 500 foot tunnel was built underneath the building as a way to easily bring in supplies. They weren’t able to treat the tuberculosis, so a lot of patients died (at its peak, they estimate one patient death every other day). In an attempt to keep the morale up (apparently seeing dead bodies being rolled out a few times every week didn’t do much to keep spirits up), they used the supply tunnel as a way to discreetly remove dead bodies from the building. And there is the (very) abridged history of Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
The "death tunnel"
For Death Tunnel, the name has been changed to Vanguard Sanatorium, named after Richard J. Vanguard, who opened the sanatorium and worked there as a doctor. As I said, they keep the same basic history (used for tuberculosis patients, used the tunnel to remove the dead, etc.), but they add some stuff. For instance, Richard Vanguard experimented on the patients, so the death count was significantly higher. The tunnel was used more as a way to hide the number of deaths from the outside world, instead of boosting morale. And so on. Bottom line: Richard Vanguard was an evil man.
So that’s the set-up. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? The pieces are in place for a pretty good movie.
The story isn’t terrible. Five college girls (required to wear “provocative nighttime attire”) end up participating in an initiation called “Truth or Scare”. They have hoods placed on their heads, and they’re all placed in separate rooms (well, two of them share a room, but whatever). The repeated mantra is, “Five girls, five floors, five hours.” The first one to make it out wins. (It’s never quite clear what they win. It’s not entrance to a sorority. As near as I could tell, they win an invitation to a party house.) They are also told that they will be encountering “five ghosts”. There are cameras all over the house. It’s a set-up. A prank. A way for a couple guys to see five scantily clad girls run around for a few hours.
And what a plan it was
But then the ghosts show up, and people start dying (the mantra changes with each death, of course. “Four girls…”). They discover that each girl who was chosen had a connection to the sanatorium (their relatives were patients or nurses, mainly). They begin assuming the lives and memories of their relatives, and we find out a little more about the sanatorium with each girl. There’s also a guy involved: his name is Richie, he’s one of the guys who set up Truth or Scare, and he’s the love interest of final girl.
And Richie is NOT happy to be there
It should be noted that one of the ghosts is a large figure in a gas mask who pushes around a gurney, wears a rubber apron, and speaks in a muffled, gravely voice. He carts off the dead bodies, which brought to mind the hearse driver in Dead End.
Time to collect the bodies...
So, basically, girls try to escape. Girls get possessed. Girls die. And one girl gets naked and takes a shower for no real reason. Because, when you find yourself in a haunted sanatorium, the first thing you should do is take a shower.
Who could've guessed it would turn into a haunted blood shower?
None of that looks terrible.
But here’s the thing: it absolutely was.
There were so many things wrong with this movie, I’m not quite sure where to start. From time to time, there would be a random flash-forward that accomplished nothing but confusion. They pulled me out of the movie, spun me around, and put me back in. There was no rhyme or reason to these. And they happened pretty often.
This is how the movie started. Before we met her, we saw her kill face
The motivation of the characters never made sense. Why did they participate in this? Was it seriously just to be able to frequent a college party house?
The acting was terrible. It might have been some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Galaxy Invader countless times). As near as I could tell, they just grabbed a random assortment of beautiful(ish) people off the streets and said, “Can you go to this haunted hospital and read these words? Thanks!”
Beyond the fact that these actors were terrible, most of them were asked to play two parts. “Can you play a normal college kid AND an insane suicidal nurse?” That’s a recipe for disaster right there.
The writing was laughably bad. I jotted down a couple of my favorite lines. But, for every line I noted, there were a dozen that were nearly as good.
- “That’s where who died?” “MEEEEEE!”
- “ You make me sick. Now I make you sick.” (This was pretty much delivered exactly the same as, “You don’t bring me down. I bring me down,” from Jerry McGuire. Except this was all muffled because it was said by the gas mask guy. So, basically, it sounded like a less jolly Bane.)
- “Something in this place remembers. And it’s f***ing pissed off!”
- “Vanguard said the only way out was death. The only way out is the death tunnel.”
And so on, and so forth.
The “ghosts” were pretty ridiculous. Two pale naked chicks just kinda roaming the halls. A girl who just wanted to play catch with a ball. The evil, scene-chomping Richard Vanguard. They didn’t have many special effects, which was good, because the ones they did have were awful.
What I’m saying is, this movie was awful. But it was awful in an entertaining way. I can see myself watching this again if the setting is right (with a group of like-minded individuals and beer). If you’re looking for a good movie, you’re out of luck. But, if you’re looking for an entertaining movie, you could do worse than this.
Rating (quality): 1/5
Rating (entertainment value): 3.5/5
Just for fun, here are the girls: Devon,
Elizabeth, Ashley, Tori and Heather. (Their first initials spell “death”. Get it?!)