Shudder Streaming: The Superdeep (2020) - Reviewed

Courtesy of Shudder
The Kola Superdeep Borehole which began in 1970 in the Soviet Union attempted to drill on the Kola Peninsula as deep into the Earth’s crust as possible.  Up until 1989 it was the deepest manmade borehole on the planet and even gave room to such urban legends as the so-called “Well to Hell”, where drilling was so deep it penetrated the depths of Hell itself.  Though the drilling eventually suspended before being abandoned altogether in 2008, the site’s history and lore generated by the ambition of the project no doubt leaves ample room for science fiction horror premises to propagate. 
Enter debut filmmaker Arseny Syuhin and his first feature film as a writer-director, the sci-fi horror outbreak thriller The Superdeep.  Depicting the Kola Superdeep Borehole as an underground secret facility with many labyrinthine interconnected facilities and tunnels dug out below, the film begins in 1984 after mysterious sounds resembling screams and moans emanate from more than seven miles deep.  Worse still, more than twenty people working the facility disappear without a trace.  A research team led by a Russian epidemiologist named Anna Fedora (Milena Radulovic) joins forces with a military team to investigate.  Upon descending the borehole, what they find buried deep under the permafrost threatens to wipe out all life on Earth.

Lovingly tipping its hat to Alien, The Thing, Dead Space, The Descent and more recently As Above So Below, the Russian The Superdeep picked up in the United States by Shudder Streaming though sadly only available in a forced English dub nevertheless proves to be a formidable creature feature as body horror shocker that will absolutely tickle your gag reflexes.  
Performances from the ensemble cast led by Serbian actress Milena Radulovic (who learned Russian for this role in addition to cowriting the screenplay) are mostly good across the board though the real stars of this claustrophobic horror show are the effects artists who offer up a cavalcade of diseased bodily transformation horrors that dare to make even David Cronenberg reach for the vomit bag. 
Shot on location within a real mine in the Murmansk region in the city of Zapolyarny in 2.66:1 ultra-widescreen by In the Shadows cinematographer Hayk Kirakosyan, the film is beautiful to look at even as the camera pushes into increasingly disgusting territory.  Equally strong is the quiet, ambient score by Collector composer Dmitry Selipanov, lending the eerie panoramic visuals a subtle tension that, like Alien before it, waits silently in the dark to strike.  

Production design by Marcel Kalmagambetov within the mining facility is striking though many scenes lit in dark deep reds with fog machines blowing about will resemble the finale to Ridley Scott’s epic.  At the forefront though are the film’s visual effects and makeup, making a seamless blend of CGI rendering and prosthesis, resulting in some truly horrific stuff that’s borne from Carpenter, Scott and Cronenberg but builds on their accomplishments.
Coming shortly after Sputnik, another masterful science-fiction thriller film which brilliantly mixed fact with fiction to create a wholly original work of terror cinema, The Superdeep is of equal big screen horror grandeur though debatably Sputnik bears the more solidarity of the two.  Though the forced English dubbing hampers the viewing experience some, most of the audiovisual horrors contained therein land as powerfully as they did for Russian audiences.  

Seen now in the middle of a still-ongoing pandemic is equally terrifying and makes one question just what kinds of undiscovered organic bacteria are still lurking hundreds of miles deep within the Earth’s crust.  All in all, a solid horror debut from a promising new Russian filmmaker sure to make you regurgitate the last thing you ate, so try not to snack too much while watching this. 

--Andrew Kotwicki