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20 Ft Below: The Darkness Descending (2014)

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Below the streets of New York is a dark and dangerous world hidden in the shadows of abandoned subway tunnels and miles of forgotten infrastructure. When a young documentary filmmaker goes ... See full summary »

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Below the streets of New York is a dark and dangerous world hidden in the shadows of abandoned subway tunnels and miles of forgotten infrastructure. When a young documentary filmmaker goes into these tunnels to uncover the unseen stories of the people living below our feet, she finds out that there is more to be afraid of than the dark. A mysterious figure, living beyond the reach of the law, has declared war on the outside world that threatens to tear apart the fragile underground society living in the tunnels and maybe even the city above it. Written by Frank Krueger

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18 March 2014 (USA)  »

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20ft Below: The Darkness Descending  »

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User Reviews

 
Cheesy Humanoid Underground Dweller
24 May 2014 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

The plot: A naive reporter finds a bigger story than she was expecting when she visits a underground homeless camp in the abandoned subway tunnels of New York City.

This is a very low budget film. Unfortunately, it's not one of those inventive independent films that makes up for its lack of budget with bold, new ideas and a maverick spirit. Instead, it's pretty much what you'd expect from a direct-to-video Danny Trejo film: a cool villain, a weak story, and a bit of violence. For some people, that will surely be enough to carry the entire film, but if you're not a Trejo fanatic, you can probably skip this one.

The biggest problem is that the homeless people generally don't look very homeless. I'm not saying they have to smell like urine and mumble incoherently, but these people are way too pretty and healthy for me believe that they've actually suffered. One of them has what looks like a brand new guitar. I'm not even sure that I could afford that guitar. You don't have to go all method and make the actors live in a homeless community for a week, but more realism wouldn't have hurt.

Some of the characters were pretty cool. Of course, I liked Danny Trejo, and, of course, he played a badass villain. He was sort of interesting: part ubermensch, part cult leader, and part Occupy Wall Street protester. I'm not sure how well all those things mix, especially when he'd segue from discussing the plight of the homeless to some Nietzsche-inspired rant about how the weak deserve their plight. Still, for Trejo fanatics, it's enough to make the film watchable, and he delivers it with his trademark hostility and danger. As soon as he enters, it's easy to believe that he's the most dangerous man in any room.

The rest of the characters weren't so interesting. Most of them were underwritten and depended on cultural archetypes to give them weight: the crazy homeless guy, the burnt-out ex-cop, the pushy reporter, etc. As long as you don't mind a film full of stock characters that never really transcend their stereotypes, it's fairly survivable. A few of them are well-spoken and even fairly well acted (I liked the crazy homeless guy), but most of the dialogue ends up being clichés, especially after the midpoint. Prior to that point, it seemed like they might be verging on something interesting or insightful, but then they just wander into hack screen writing 101 and never leave.

The plot is fairly traditional, and it holds no real surprises. It's the same film that you've seen time and time again, only this time its set underground. If you just want to see Danny Trejo act like a badass, this is a fair choice. If you want more than that, I'd say skip it. I like films about underground societies, but this one really didn't work very well. For an artsy, quirky take on the subject, try Kontroll, an amazing Hungarian film. For a more fantasy-based take, try Nail Gaiman's Neverwhere. I'm not a huge fan of Gaiman, but even the worst of his work is better than this.


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