Missing Persons and Marginal Spaces
Missing Persons and Marginal Spaces in Andy Fetscher’s URBAN EXPLORER
While spelunking is nothing new, it’s only in recent years that Urban Exploring (with a capitol U and a capitol E) has become a global movement. With increasing popularity as a result of media attention – including a documentary by Melody Gilbert (Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness, 2007) and a popular television reality show – the urban exploring network is extensive and organized (check out the Forbidden Places website to see what I mean). With the motto of “take only photographs and leave only footprints”, these explorers traverse empty hospitals, catacombs, tunnels and factories for the thrill of experiencing what is off-limits to others, and to document endangered spaces.
Already a hazardous activity due to a number of unknown factors – safety issues, collapsing floors, stairs or roofs, asbestos poisoning, the threat of arrest – German director/editor/cinematographer Andy Fetscher takes the urban spelunking phenomenon to a new level of danger with this devastating horror film set in the underground tunnels that lay 25 feet below Berlin.
Four twenty-somethings – all various foreigners who met online – follow an unknown guide who promises (for $300 a head) to lead them to a sealed-off Nazi bunker far below the city. As if this whole process isn’t sketchy enough on its own, requiring a great deal of trust in absolute strangers, the explorers will soon be in for something far worse than they could have imagined when an unexpected injury leaves them vulnerable and splitting off for help.
Like the spelunkers, the tunnels know no boundaries, crossing through the old East and West like a ghostly remnant of the time before the Wall. With little public awareness of the tunnels’ existence, much less foot traffic, this place is a subterranean no-man’s land. That’s not to say there aren’t antisocial stragglers who make their way below once in a while, including a trigger-happy former Border guard who has found that the above-ground world no longer has a place for someone like him following the reunification of Germany; like the subway killers in Death Line (1973) and A Stranger is Watching (1982), he sequesters himself in the darkness and fashions his own fictional purpose. Terrible things are going to happen in these tunnels tonight.
As an added bit of trivia, the shoot involved filming in some illegal locations – including actual Nazi tunnels that were closed off during the Cold War – with Fetscher and his AD even getting arrested and spending a night in jail for their troubles!
URBAN EXPLORER has its North American Premiere Sunday July 24th at 7pm in the Hall Theatre with director Andy Fetscher in person. More info on the film page HERE.