Many horror tales are rooted in nightmares, in the case of 12 Kilometers from the ones writer/director Mike Pecci had while recovering from a near fatal skull fracture. The fact it was sustained while ice skating may have helped inspire its frozen Russian setting. That and the popular tabloid story about the Russian oil well that dug so deep they reached Hell.
In 1984 a drilling station on Russia’s Kola Peninsula has managed to bore down 12 kilometers into the Earth as part of a mysterious scientific project. However just as the project is about to realize its goal Eduard (Ara Woland) the son of it’s originator arrives to shut it down. Professor Mihailov (Ernst Zorin) however is having none of it and is determined to see the project to its completion. At any cost.
A 27 minute short that feels like a proof of concept for a feature, 12 Kilometers is an odd beast. It’s an American film, but the dialogue is all in Russian with English subtitles. The cast sounds very convincing too, it’s easy to forget this isn’t actually a Russian film. It was even partially filmed with Soviet-made lenses of the type Tarkovsky used to shoot Solaris.
Pecci, who’s also a photographer worked with nature photographer Linden Gledhill to create the scenes showing the creature. They used magnetic ferrofluid to create the oily sentience from deep within the Earth. The result is unnerving, especially scenes shot using a pig’s brain to simulate it taking over a human host. Check out the short Filming The Monster for more details of how this was accomplished
Complete the illusion with some extremely claustrophobic sets and excellent sound design and you have a nightmarish setting. The plot gives us just enough information to follow the events without being lost. We are, however, always aware we don’t have the full story. The final result is something like we might have gotten if David Lynch had directed The Thing.