Fantasia Film Festival Movie Review: MAN UNDERGROUND (2016)

Hello my ghosts and ghouls!

Nightmarish Conjurings has been a beautiful hub for me to express all of my opinions on what’s going on in the world of horror.  Sometimes, the opportunities seem endless, like that time I was asked to review films for FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL (I KNOW, right?!)

Now, when most people decide on which films to review, they typically do their research.  I am actually the worst, and did no research whatsoever, and did exactly what I was always told not to do…I judged by the covers.  Well, not so much the covers, but the names – I jumped at the opportunity to review films that sounded like they would scare me.

I took a chance and grabbed MAN UNDERGROUND with absolutely no idea as to what I was getting into, or if I would even like the film.  Seriously, you guys, I saw the name and literally said “cool, okay, let’s do it”.

Saturday night, I sat down on my couch with a glass of moscato and my “I’m a horror critic” attitude and proceeded to be as skeptical and cynical as I possibly could…but before we get into my opinion, let me tell you a little about the film:

MAN UNDERGROUND tells the story of William (George Basil), a former geologist for the US government and a serious recluse.  When he and his best friend Todd (Andy Rocco) decide to create a film about William’s experiences with aliens while working for the government, they enlist Flossie (Pamela Fila), a quirky waitress at a local diner to help. However, is reliving the past too much for William to handle?

Before anyone reads this and says “but this isn’t a horror film”, I know you’re right, it’s not.  It’s a sci-fi thriller with a lot of drama and a hint of eerie spookiness.  Regardless, the film absolutely exceeded all of my expectations.

First, let me start by saying that the cast is absolutely stellar.  I truly don’t have a word that describes how much I enjoyed this group of people, particularly Fila, who does an incredible job as Flossie.  I can only imagine how hard it must be to be an actress being told to play an aspiring actress with true talent while also being quirky and hilarious… she’s really incredible.

The film is a roller coaster, full of emotional ups and downs, suspense, confusion, and a lot of endearment.  The film is much more lighthearted than I ever would have expected, and it was a welcomed surprise as I sat sipping on my wine hoping that I wasn’t going to have to sleep with the lights on.  Luckily, the lights were able to be turned off, but that doesn’t mean my mind wasn’t churning at a mile a minute trying to decipher the ending to this film!

What I enjoyed most about MAN UNDERGROUND was the fact that it stays almost vague, in a way…you are able to come up with your own conclusions.  To a point, the film is like a parent dropping their child off at sleepaway camp…it leaves you in the dust as it pulls away yelling “figure it out on your own, I know you can do it!”…weird analogy?  Probably, but now that I’m reading it over, it was pretty good….

One of my favorite parts of this film was the use of a hand-held camera to simulate Aaron filming, however between takes of the homemade film, it cuts to actual, professional-grade shots.  It does a LOT of justice, showing that our perception is everything, as the acting looks and feels different, the lighting changes, and you can truly understand the love and passion that these characters have for making their film the best it can be, but what it really accomplishes is making the film look absolutely stunning.  SO, SO different from anything I’ve ever watched.

Besides the heartwarming, funny aspects, the film itself is a beautiful look at the mind of a man who has such strong beliefs, with no one to listen but his best friend.  I can easily say that we’ve all been in that place at least once in our lives, and that’s something I truly did appreciate about this film.  Us horror fans are few and far-between; not many of us exist in the realm of the real world anymore – a lot of the time we’re accidentally introduced and it seems like we’re all worlds away.  MAN UNDERGROUND teaches that no matter where you are and what you love, want, or need, someone is around to listen and they will travel through tunnels built by the government just to help you make a low-budget film about aliens.

With that being said, I think my idea of judging the film came in pretty handy – had I read the description of this film prior to watching it, I think my biased mind would have told me “you’re not going to enjoy this, you don’t like sci-fi”, and I am so glad I was able to surpass that and really be immersed in this film.  I would love to watch it again, even, and see if perhaps I drew a different conclusion as the film ended (it leaves a lot to interpretation)!

What an awesome, awesome start to my reviews of films from Fantasia Film Festival.  I recommend this film 200% for anyone that’s looking for something they’ve never seen before, something fun, lighthearted, but totally out-of-the-norm.  I can’t say enough about how great I thought this film was.

Taylor Krauss
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