Urban Explorers (2012)

Beneath Berlin extends a system of over 25,000 tunnels.

Two thirds have already been permanently sealed.

Some areas haven’t been entered for more than 60 years.

Urban Explorers – or Curiosity Killed the Cats – is about a group of so-called urban explorers; people who enter closed off places in urbanized areas, such as disused London Underground Tube Stations or ancient crypts in France. We’ve conquered the world, so let’s explore the parts we destroyed.

The premise is a simple one: four urban explorers follow their German guide into the tunnels under Berlin, hoping to get a glimpse of a recently discovered Nazi war bunker (complete with World War 2 graffiti!). It’s been walled up, but that doesn’t stop the guide – he’s brought a pickaxe!!

Naturally the group find out they’re not alone in the Berlin death tunnels and soon their little illegal entry exploration leads to a fight for survival against an unknown foe. Underground explorers, trapped and lost and fighting against a sadistic enemy. Sound familiar?

Familiarity will be something horror fans will feel if they’re familiar with British horror flicks The Descent and Creep. Urban Explorers is the urban equivalent; a group of thrill seekers enter an unexplored subterranean, one person makes a huge mistake, someone falls down a hole and bone-pops a limb… and then they meet an underground dwelling torture-happy nutjob and everything goes a bit wrong. Like the marketing says, it’s The Descent meets Creep. Except in Germany. And without the genius of Neil Marshall or Christopher Smith standing behind the camera.

Urban Explorers could’ve been absolutely terrifying if Neil Marshall had filmed it, but Andy Fetscher’s direction is too kinetic and blunt to effectively eek the scares from this deeply dark and claustrophobic situation. That is not to suggest Andy Fetscher’s direction is poor – it is incredibly good in places – it’s just Urban Explorers could’ve been utterly terrifying and just isn’t.

Despite this, the horror is pretty bloody horrific in places. Violent, wince-inducing, bloody, gory and genuinely sickening, Urban Explorers certainly earns its UK 18 certificate. One or two moments will certainly stick with you.

The script is excellent too. If one character isn’t talking about how the Mujahedeen skinned men after raping them, another will be saying “That gun is modified to fire backwards” in a beautiful attempt at double-bluff. Martin Thau’s dialogue is superb throughout. Coupled with the constant red herrings – stories of Neo Nazis, mutant Nazi experiments gone wrong and other gastly monsters in the darkness – it is smartly and knowingly created.

The film’s highlight, however, has to be the performance from Klaus Stiglmeier as the “slightly” mental Armin. He is simply brilliant and horribly convincing throughout. Urban Explorers is worth watching simply for his performance. And he certainly looks the part:

Klaus Stiglmeier is one brilliantly disturbing man.

Urban Explorers does have its flaws, but mostly very minor. Two of the main characters disappear from the film for an extended period (and I’m talking about 30 minutes here), the good guys fail to execute Mister Nasty when they have the chance (eat cliché, bitches) and the plot seems entirely random at times; people fall down stairs and into holes without warning and this – after the third time – begins to feel like a plot contrivance.

And then there’s the final 15 minutes. Dear God, they completely screwed it up. All reality and believability is raped in the face. A total mess. It’s a real pity, especially considering the preceding 70 minutes worked so damn well. And the final image? Absolute fail.

Overall Urban Explorers is certainly well worth watching, especially if you’ve never watched The Descent. If you have, you’ll find it overly familiar and strangely predictable in places, but still genuinely enjoyable. Surprisingly compelling and well worth a watch, Urban Explorers makes up for its lack of originality by being a solidly entertaining little horror film with a superb performance from Klaus Stiglmeier.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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