Terror is Subterranean in Deep Fear (FANTASTIC)
Title: Deep Fear
First Non-Festival Release: April 20, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Grégory Beghin
Writer: Nicolas Tackian
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Starring: Sofia Lessaffre, Victor Meutelet, Kassim Meesters
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
It’s 1991 in the city of Paris and former classmates Sonia (Sofia Lessaffre), Henry (Victor Meutelet), and Max (Kassim Meesters) are looking for something to do for the boy’s final days in the city. Sonia enlists the help of a fling, Ramy (Joseph Olivenness), for something truly exciting. He takes the group on a secret tour of the Catacombs. Their simple trip is intruded upon by a small gang of skinheads which diverts the group away from their planned exit. They meet up with some other adventurers who have finally broken through to an unexplored section of the tunnels, to which the frazzled students reluctantly join them in exploring.
Deep Fear is a terrifying descent into hell that is as unnerving as it is satisfying.
There isn’t much to the story in Deep Fear. It is simple so the audience can get exactly what they came for: a terrifying film set in a terrifying place. Some added rationale on how and why the tunnels came to be is provided so viewers can understand why the antagonists have been so elusive and able to survive over the years. Deep Fear also subverts the trope of over explaining everything to the audience. It isn’t necessary to know more than what can be inferenced. Clues are left to the audience suggesting some sort of medical experiment gone wrong happened in this bunker before it was sealed away for good. That’s all that’s needed, especially for a brisk 80-minute feature.
Thanks to director Grégory Beghin, this movie is tense from beginning to end. Aside from an irritating dream sequence, the film gets its real start once the troupe descends into the Catacombs. It never lets up after the first tunnel. It only accelerates. The film feels terrifyingly big despite the small confines of the tunnels. Claustrophobia is used to a great extent in portraying the character’s plight. The vastness of the dark tunnels contributes to this sense of great desperation and fear of the unknown. Deep Fear is a masterclass in pure nightmare cinema.
Aside from some minor commentary on how harmful relics and ideals from the past have a way of living on in the present, there isn’t much depth to Deep Fear. Given its premise, that is okay. Achieving high concept survival horror madness is the main point of films like this, and Deep Fear delivers on just that. It makes no apologies for simply being a dark and gritty Nazisploitation film with rapid fire pacing and breakneck action sequences.
There’s enough style in filming in the dark to where the Catacombs comes to life in the film. Dynamic size, shape, and environmental obstacles of the tunnels make it more engaging to the viewer as the crew descends further into the depths of hell. A minimalist approach to showing the sources of terror awaiting the crew make the horror more unnerving. Thankfully, the special effects team creates a sense of realism while balancing the need to keep the viewers in the dark.
Using a retro 80s soundtrack, transports the viewers into a time where getting lost was easier and getting help was harder. It also is a nice throwback for viewers seeking more nostalgic horror offerings of the era.
Survival horror can be hit or miss, but Deep Fear succeeds where others have failed thanks to its commitment to creating intense horror. By never revealing all its cards at once, this subterranean Nazisploitation film ratchets up the tension to a ten and never relents. Claustrophobic camerawork amplifies the confined setting and dire circumstances that these unwitting characters find themselves fighting against. It doesn’t have much in the way of brains but there is enough style and dread to knock any willing cinema goer on their ass. If underground horror films are your jam, dig no deeper than Deep Fear.
Overall Score? 7.5/10