The Superdeep

Shudder’s The Superdeep Review- A Largely Successful Nod To Carpenter

Shudder’s latest acquisition, the Russian sci-fi amalgamation, The Superdeep, is an intriguing mix of gross-out body horror and sometimes competing ideas.

Shudder is nothing if it isn’t willing to take a chance. The streamer has made a name for itself, picking up indy thrillers, hybrid films that defy definition, foreign gems that might get unfortunately ignored by an American audience, and unique weirdo cult classics in the making. While The Superdeep isn’t destined to be a classic, it is a loving homage to 80s era alien sci-fi/horror mashups like The Thing and Alien.

A group of scientists and doctors attempt a research and rescue mission at the Russian Kola borehole in 1984. Something has gone very wrong, and a young virologist with experience in these sorts of situations is called in to contain and preserve what she can. Life or otherwise. What they find there threatens not just their lives but all of humanity.

Superdeep looks and sounds like a John Carpenter film. That is rarefied air for sci-fi thrillers. Nevertheless, Carpenter set the bar for what those types of movies should be. While Superdeep has some intriguing bones and awe-inspiring effects, the plot is a little too meandering, and the run time is about twenty minutes too long. Nevertheless, carpenter knew how to drive the tension. His films all possessed a signature dread and anxiety that has primarily gone unmatched. The Superdeep is not as suspenseful as its predecessor, but it is a gorgeous repulsive romp through a natural hellscape.

The superdeep is based on a real place called the Kola Superdeep Borehole. Located on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, the 40,000-mile deep hole was the deepest drilled hole on Earth for nearly 20 years. That has changed with an oil rig in Qatar and another hole, this time a well in Russia. In 2005 the Kola hole was shut down and partially filled with concrete. The hole was not closed because of screaming and other hellish sounds leaking out from the Earth’s bowels, however. The hell sounds are entirely false. The reported screams of the damned turned out to be spliced together pieces of horror soundtracks. The truth is somehow even creepier, though.

Milena Radulovic(Anna) does a great job channeling Joely Richardson’s Lt. Stark in Event Horizon. She is equal parts false bravado, calculating indifference, and ultimately vulnerability. She is a highlight of the film, and the camera loves her brave face. There is a doe-eyed nerviness to her performance which quickly changes from hubristic overconfidence to steely resolve. I half expected her to whisper “Miller” as the final shot lingered.

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As great as Radulovic is, the rest of the characters are one-dimensional. That is one of the downfalls of Arseny Syuhin’s movie. American’s have been indoctrinated(sometimes fairly) to distrust Russians. Early on, our protagonist Anna does some pretty despicable things. Her bosses are even worse. The military personnel she is with, and even the fellow researchers are worse still. It is a little hard to care what happens to the majority of these characters when so many of them are irredeemable. The only stakes to be concerned with would be the threat to the remainder of the world.

The Superdeep displays an impressive array of special effects that include some genuinely disgusting body horror and some hard-boiled sci-fi industrialism that props up the sometimes lackluster pacing. This is a good story and an even better premise, but occasionally the story goes off the rails in increasingly lengthy explanations and plot development that are wholly unnecessary. Syuhin’s film would be better served to let the effects speak for themselves because they are that good. They rival some of the best H. R. Giger creations. Mixing a strange alien lifeform with eco-horror can be tricky. The result in The Superdeep is a mostly successful mix of great exotic architecture and bizarre invasive fungi.

Set design breathes cold Russian steel with strangely reminiscent Rodin imagery in a way that conveys that this is Hell on Earth. There is a wetness to all the monster noises that is both cheesy and very disturbing. The synth-heavy soundtrack keeps The Superdeep firmly grounded in the creature sensibilities of this type of film. Cinematography by Hayk Kirakosyan captures the grimy sterility of the mining site as well as the gooey eco-horror of Mother Nature on fire. It is a less beautiful but no less horrifying vision of vengeful nature than SXSW’s Gaia.

Although the film is a nearly two-hour commitment, the effects and 80’s nods are worth watching. Although not perfect, for lovers of these sorts of films(and I am one), it is a fun throwback that is delivers heaping doses of nostalgia. The Superdeep is out on Shudder Thursday, June 17th, 2021. If you are looking for more Shudder greats, find all our recommendations and coverage here.