Bunker (2022) Review
Lt. Turner (Patrick Moltane) is holed up in his command bunker while his men are hunkered down in a trench trading fire with similarly dug-in Germans. At least they were until the Germans seemingly disappear, prompting Turner to put together a squad including medic Segura (Eddie Ramos, Eraser: Reborn, Endless), Captain Hall (Sean Cullen, Chronically Metropolitan, Crypto), Baker (Julian Feder, Escape the Field, The Doorman), Lance Cpl. Walker (Adriano Gatto, Valentina, Marshall) and Pvt. Lewis (Quinn Moran, Flipped, Shelved) and take a closer look.
The trenches are indeed deserted, and most curiously the bunker has been blocked from the outside as if the Germans were trying to keep something from escaping. When they get in the soldiers find it empty, except for a German soldier Kurt (Luke Baines, Shadowhunters, American Fright Fest) crucified to a beam, but still alive. While they’re trying to come to grips with this, an artillery shell hits the trench, trapping them inside.
Director Adrian Langley (Two Deaths of Henry Baker, Butchers) obviously didn’t have a large budget to film Michael Huntsman’s script on. While the film is above ground the war is mostly depicted with the sound of explosions and distant, vaguely seen fires. It’s cheap but relatively effective. On the other hand, the bunker itself is a well-designed and effective set that gives cinematographer Matthew Quinn (Crown Vic, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin) plenty to work with.
Once the cast is trapped in the bunker the film initially plays like a psychological horror film as madness starts to take hold of the men. Is their situation getting to them? Or is there an unseen presence in the bunker with them? Around the forty-five-minute mark, there is a bloody and rather impressive death, but the first hour is mostly a study of deteriorating mental states.
Unfortunately, at an hour and forty-seven minutes, Bunker takes too much time to get to the point. The characters are all cliches, since he’s a British officer Lt. Turner has to be a martinet with a distrust of anyone who isn’t English, including the two Americans. Kurt is sinister, glaring at people and talking about the devil in the guise of a shepherd. And there’s a rookie, a religious fanatic, etc. all the characters you expect in a war film, and their madnesses take the forms you would expect.
Similarly, the way they begin distrusting and turning on each other is predictable as well. That aspect of the script might have worked better if this had been an established team who had been through hell together and had that kind of bond rather than being made up of whoever was available. This does however let us enjoy watching Moltane’s performance go more and more over the top as Turner becomes more and more insane.
In its last half hour, Bunker goes off in a whole different direction before turning into a monster movie in its final minutes. Langley and Huntsman are rather vague about its identity though. Is it an alien, a demon, or as one character claims, “The Angel of War”? Details like this are good to know. On the plus side, it is rather creepy looking and a man in a suit rather than CGI.
For a low-budget film, Bunker does have some decent effects and a well-made main set. Sadly its script doesn’t live up to its technical accomplishments. The cast, especially Luke Baines give it their best effort and Moltane in his first role shows scenery-chewing potential that could make him the low-budget Nick Cage.
With some unique and interesting characters reacting in less predictable ways, and a final creature that felt better integrated into the story, Bunker could have been a nice little exercise in paranoia along the lines of Trench 11, with which it shares a few similarities. Instead, while it’s a big improvement over Butchers, it still falls short of the mark. If you’re looking for a variation on The Thing and aren’t feeling too fussy this may work for you, otherwise, you can probably do better.