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Film / The Bunker (2001)

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The Bunker is a 2001 British psychological horror film directed by Rob Green and starring Jason Flemyng, Jack Davenport, and Eddie Marsan.

The film takes place in the waning days of the Second World War and follows a platoon of German panzergrenadiers who, after surviving an American ambush, become trapped in an isolated Bunker on the German-Belgian border. Thinks quickly go From Bad to Worse as the soldiers discover that the bunker sits on top of a network of tunnels, and that they may not be so safe in it after all.

The Bunker contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: In the prologue, which takes place four months prior to the main events of the film, a German Soldier ventures into the tunnels and comes across two other soldiers barricading the entrance to a 17th Century Mass Grave using little more than some planks of wood. It's never explained why they wanted to barricade the entrance, only that people don't like it, but later in the movie we find out that the barricade didn't last long, and that someone or something managed to tear their way through.
    • This someone or something was most likely Private Kreuzmann, as he is found inside of the grave scared out of his mind and delusional.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: While not exactly an Action Movie, once the men become trapped inside of the Bunker, they share some rather peaceful moments as they drink, swap stories, guard the entrance, and simply chat. The film provides just enough of these to make you forget what kind of movie this is before it all goes to hell.
  • Alliterative Name: Sergeant Hans Heydrich, the Platoon's second in command.
  • Ancient Evil: Overlaps with Ancient Tomb. Whatever force that exists down in the tunnels is unknown, but it seems to be the product of the massacre and mass burial of hundreds of plague victims during the Black Death, as the bunker is built on the grave site. Privates Mirus and Neumann only explain that nobody likes going into the tunnels, and later in the film it becomes apparent that whatever it is, it begins turning the soldiers against each other, and seemingly manipulates their fear and paranoia.
  • Ancient Tomb: When the Bunker and its tunnels were under construction, the workers broke into a mass grave for victims of the plague, who were murdered and buried by the their former friends and neighbours. This seems to be the source of the mind warping 'evil' that exists down in the tunnels, and the construction of the tunnels was abandoned for this reason. Mirus gives the much simpler reason of 'nobody likes going down into the tunnels' and we soon discover why.
  • Anyone Can Die: The film introduces us to a number of characters, most of whom maintain a level head. Corporal Reinhardt Ebert is the one member of the squad who seems to be at most grips with reality, and we are led to believe that maybe he'll survive, if not be one of the last to die. He's actually the first of the men to die, (excluding Private Engels) stabbed in the gut by a deranged Private Mirus and left to bleed out in the tunnels.
  • Asshole Victim: Corporal Ernst Schenke. The entire squad are a bunch of Nazis, but this one just happens to be a dick of the extra special variety. He talks down to his fellow soldiers, accuses most of them of being cowards, and is evidently a bit unhinged. By the end of the movie, he goes completely off the deep end, and he ends up having a Grenade dropped onto his face.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: After becoming trapped inside of the Bunker, the Soldiers rig up a Booby Trap by fastening a Grenade to the Bunker door, so if anyone attempts to open it from outside or from within, it'll explode. However, as resourceful as this sounds, it probably wouldn't deter attackers from coming in, as once it's gone, it's gone, and it can't kill all of them.
  • Ax-Crazy: Corporal Schenke. He's a disaster waiting to happen, and despite already being a douche, he doesn't go fully insane until the latter half of the movie, where he becomes convinced that he can't trust anyone and attempts to murder his own squad members as he believes them all to be traitors.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Corporal Reinhardt Ebert is stabbed in the stomach by an unseen assailant when he first ventures into the tunnels. When Private Kreuzmann appears from around a corner, staring at a helpless Ebert, we are initially led to believe that he is the culprit. We later find out that it was in fact Private Mirus, who under a state of delusion, attacked Ebert who he believed was trespassing in 'his' tunnels.
  • Beast in the Maze: A possible example of the Eldritch Abomination sort. Whatever exists down in the tunnels is completely unknown, and is never even hinted upon beyond there's a hundred rotten corpses in an Ancient Tomb. It may not be anything at all, and could just be the soldiers minds playing tricks, but since nobody seemed to be that crazy before they go into the tunnels, it can be assumed that yes, there is something down there, and it is affecting the men and making them do very bad things.
  • Booby Trap: In order to keep the Americans out, the Platoon rig a Stick Grenade to the Bunker's main entrance, which will go off if anyone opens the door; a final resort should they try to get in.
  • Ceiling Corpse: And not just the ceiling. When the soldiers first stumble into the cave containing the mass grave, there are around a hundred rotted corpses protruding from every angle.
  • Chromosome Casting: There are no female characters in this movie. Justified as it's about a group of German soldiers trapped in a bunker during the second world war.
  • Creepy Basement: To call it a basement would be an understatement; beneath the titular Bunker is a network of maze like tunnels and corridors, which it is heavily recommended that everyone just ignore and not go near, for fear that there is something evil living down there. Of course, for sake of the plot, everyone ends up going down into the tunnels, and that's when things go From Bad to Worse.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: When Private Mirus fears that something is chasing him, he flees out of the Bunker and into the pouring rain. He ends up getting trapped in the barbed wire, making it worse as he struggles to get free. Come morning, he has spent the night completely tangled in the wire, having likely died from Hypothermia.
    • When Corporal Schenke and Lieutenant Krupp are investigating the tunnels, they are startled by a crazed Private Kreuzmann. They end up inadvertently shooting him to death, but not before their gunfire causes a ceiling collapse that crushes and kills Lieutenant Krupp. Schenke proceeds to hold his twitching hand as it protrudes from the rubble, comforting him as he dies.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: A perfect example. The men are warned repeatedly not to go down into the tunnels, but they keep finding more reasons to do just the opposite. Eventually they all become trapped down there, and by the end of the film only two are left alive.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Midway through the movie the Magneto Telephone in the Bunker stops working. Considering that it's their only link to HQ and any hope of reinforcements, this pretty much means they're screwed.
    • This also serves as a minor plot point; the phone lines run underground, so the only place that they could possibly go to try and find the problem and fix it would be the dark maze of tunnels that run underneath the Bunker. This goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Anyone who goes into the dark and maze-like tunnels ends up dead, bar two. There's something in the darkness, and it begins to mess with their heads...
  • Developing Doomed Characters: We spend a good half hour or so in the Bunker, learning about the men and their situation. Eventually Private Neumann brings up the tunnels beneath the Bunker, and then we can all expect this is where the horror will begin.
  • Dirty Coward: It's implied that Baumann has a reputation for allegedly running away from combat. He seems to be at most odds with Schenke, the user of Engineered Heroics, and Lieutenant Krupp, who doesn't seem to trust him. Funnily enough, he's one of only two characters to survive. It's also implied in a flashback that he got this reputation when he 'missed' a deserter he was supposed to execute, before reloading and actually finishing the job.
  • Don't Go Into the Woods: If the trope was named "don't go into the scary dark tunnels beneath the Bunker you're trapped in" then this would be a perfect example.
  • Dwindling Party: Excluding Private Hugo Engels, who is shot down before he even makes it to safety, the film begins with Nine German Soldiers trapped inside a Bunker on the German-Belgian Border, desperately awaiting some form of aid. They soon discover the network of tunnels beneath the bunker, and by the next morning, seven of the men are dead and only two remain.
  • Eldritch Abomination: There's something in the tunnels beneath the bunker. Something unseen, unknown, but it's there. Whatever it is, it appears to be a manifestation of fear reinforced by the evil acts that were carried out in the area centuries earlier, and as soon as the characters venture down into the tunnels, paranoia quickly kicks in and the Men struggle to figure out what is fantasy and what is reality, but more importantly, who the real enemy is.
    • When trying to explain it, Private Mirus puts it as simply as he can; "people don't like it down there".
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The action covers 24 hours or slightly less.
  • Flare Pistol: During the climax, Heydrich shoots Schenke with his flare pistol, turning him into a Man on Fire.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During a flashback at the end of the film, its revealed that seven of the soldiers trapped in the Bunker previously took part in an execution of deserters, acting as the firing squad. After the bodies of the deserters are dumped in a pit, if one pauses at the right moment, you can see that one of the deserters is flipping the bird.
  • From Bad to Worse: The film begins with the German survivors of an Allied Ambush making it into a Bunker on the German-Belgian Border. The Americans discover this Bunker and effectively have them trapped, surrounding them on all sides. The soldiers have a dwindling supply of Ammunition to defend themselves, and then as night falls, it begins to rain, making visibility shit. Then the Phone line to HQ stops working, cutting them off from reinforcements. Eventually, everyone decides to venture down into the dark and mysterious tunnels underneath the Bunker to find a way out, and the only man left behind goes crazy and locks everyone inside the tunnels. Before you know it, everyone is beginning to see things, and as paranoia kicks in, it turns out that the Americans are the least of their concerns.
  • Ghostapo: Once in the tunnels, the men begin to see some very frightening things. One of these are the 'ghosts' of dead Germans, who begin menacing them throughout the film. One terrifying example is when the elderly Private Mirus witnesses and is pursued by a vision of his deceased son, and it is in his blind panic and delusion that He locks everyone inside the tunnels and ultimately leave them trapped.
  • Ghost Story: Private Mirus tells a particularly chilly one about how during the Black Death, a stranger arrived in the area to find a village affected by the plague, and manipulated the villagers into chasing those who were sick into the forest, where they were murdered and buried in a mass grave, apparently not far from where they are. Everyone writes his story off as bullshit, but of course later, when investigating the tunnels, guess what the Soldiers stumble upon in the darkness? This also seems to be part of the reason that what's happening in the tunnels is happening.
  • Haunted House Historian: Private Mirus seems to be well versed on the history of the area, particularly the stories involving the Plague. Apparently, a stranger turned the residents of a village against each other, which led to the gruesome murders of everyone in the village who was sick. The corpses were then dumped in a pit and buried. Mirus knows this is all true, because the tunnels beneath the Bunker were never finished on account of the workers breaking into an underground chamber containing the corpses of the Plague victims. This also seems to be chief among the reasons that something is wrong with the Bunker.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The soldiers, particularly Private Kreuzmann, all begin to hear things, usually something resembling a low moaning. It starts off small, first being heard in the Bunker, but when the men go deeper into the tunnels, it becomes a lot more constant, and it constributes to some of the men losing their minds.
    • While guarding the Bunker, Sergeant Heydrich hears an American Soldier playing the Harmonica in the middle of the night.
    Corporal Ebert: "Don't they ever sleep?"
  • Engineered Heroics: Corporal Ernst Schenke. He believes in the glory of the Reich, and obviously wants to serve it with all his might. He attempts to show himself off as being the brave, fearless individual who intimidates all around him. Instead of making him look heroic, it just makes him look more of what he is; a paranoid, unhinged prick. He doesn't like his squad members whom he bullies half the time, it's mentioned that he tried to get into the Gestapo, and he's the only one in the film who performs a Nazi salute. This is also all before he goes completely insane and tries to kill everyone.
  • A House Divided: Half of the film revolves around this. The Soldiers have their issues with each other even before they become trapped in the Tunnels, but it's only after they're down there do they start to turn against each other. One group led by Corporal Baumann, one of two Only Sane Man in the movie, believe their best chance for survival is to find another way out, while the other is led by The Paranoiac Corporal Schenke, who just so happens to be Ax-Crazy, has severe trust issues, and wants to try his luck at holding the Bunker against the American forces. Hell, the two groups even commence shooting at each other at one point.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Of the Non-Indian variety. Private Mirus tells a story of how Plague victims were murdered and buried in the immediate nearby area. He's telling the truth, as when the Bunker was being built, the tunnels underneath were never properly finished as construction broke through into the mass grave, which contained hundreds of rotted corpses. This is the best explanation possible of what exactly is wrong with the Bunker.
  • The Place
  • Powder Trail: The paranoid Schenke empties the powder from an artillery shell to create a powder trail that he uses as a fuse to ignite a fire to set off the rest of the ammo and collapse the tunnel.
  • Shovel Strike: During the final between Schenke and Baumann, Heydrich intervenes by hitting Schenke over the head with an entrenching tool. This ends badly for Heydrich, but does allow Baumann to escape.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The main characters are all soldiers of the Third Reich, but most of them are of the Type 12 variety; none of them except Schenke are given any indication that they're the stereotypical fanatical killers that other media would portray them as. Aside from a few offhand comments about purity, they're primarily presented as worn out soldiers who are tired of fighting a war that they have clearly all but lost. As mentioned however, Schenke plays this trope straight, being a Type 14, as the one who still believes in the superiority and glory of the regime, wants to continue fighting the enemy until death, and chastises his fellow soldiers for being "cowards" who have long since given up. He's also the only character in the film to deliver a Nazi salute, and even then the only reaction he receives from the others are looks of mild annoyance.