Credit: Shudder
by Chris Mello Featured Film Streaming Scene

Superdeep | Arseny Syuhin

June 18, 2021

Superdeep is only horrific in how much deadening exposition it forces viewers to endure.

The idea that the deepest hole ever drilled into the Earth, the Soviet-made Kola Superdeep Borehole, could be home to unspeakable horrors would seem fertile ground for a scary movie, but Arseny Syuhin’s Superdeep is hardly up to the task of making good on that promise. What at first appears to be an homage to Carpenter’s The Thing, with a helicopter descending to a frigid outpost in the ’80s, eventually folds in elements of cosmic horror, the fungal zombies of The Last of Us, and even the final stretch of Alien as the heroine runs from a monster in her underpants for flimsy narrative reasons. Yet, the reality of Superdeep is so much less than the sum of its references, playing like a Syfy Original ripped out of its low expectation context and thrown onto Shudder, which has seemingly adopted Netflix’s scattershot approach to acquiring content, resulting in a homepage too littered with dreck like this instead of the plum films people actually subscribe for.

Plot-wise, it goes something like this: in 1984, biologist Anya Fedorova, a few officials, and a bunch of unimportant army grunts are summoned to the Borehole for a research and rescue mission. The real reason for their trip is to acquire some sort of virus sample, transport it to the surface, and turn it into a weapon for the Soviet government. But once way down in the ground, shit goes wrong, as Anya encounters a few monsters and comes to realize that whatever is down here must, at all costs, never reach the surface. It’s at once totally simple and completely incomprehensible, as endless scenes of exposition explain the premise in convoluted terms and fail to amount to anything worthy of time spent on them. It’s easy to feel lost, the impression being that you’ve missed key scenes due to a boredom-triggered blackout, only to realize that, no, the reams of mumbo jumbo are just set dressing, and there’s not much more than what meets the eye. The film’s few nods to the politics of the USSR are entirely shallow, and whatever else it might have to offer thematically is borrowed from better films like, obviously, The Thing.

Setting aside the miserable aesthetics — this film looks worse even than any given episode of Doctor Who — and a distractingly horrible ADR job throughout, Superdeep’s main issue is its abominably lopsided ratio of dull exposition to the good stuff. The effects used to construct the fungal monsters are wonderfully gross and tactile, the squishy and mossy textures covering the victims’ bodies providing the film with a much needed dose of squirm. But there’s simply too little of that and too much dreadfully slow scene-setting, which Syuhin clearly mistakes for suspense despite it never building to anything. It’s not much better when a monster shows up on screen as a lack of visual clarity and spatial coherence render any chase sequence lifeless, but at least these brief moments provide more excitement and even a goofy practical VFX charm than the glut of passionless actors delivering first-draft quality dialogue at each other in 10-minute chunks. But Superdeep runs out of steam and all goodwill after thirty minutes, so any such minor concession to being an interesting horror movie is too little, too late.

You can currently stream Arseny Syuhin’s Superdeep on Shudder.