Black Sheep director Jonathan King returns behind the camera in this adult horror fantasy Under the Mountain, which suffers from an underdeveloped screenplay (adapted by Matthew Grainger from a novel by Maurice Gee) and loss of focus.
In the adaptation teenage twins Rachel (Sophie McBride) and Theo (Tom Cameron) investigate the creepy old house next door where they discover the Wilberforces – shape-shifting creatures that lurk beneath Auckland’s ring of extinct volcanoes. Guided by the mysterious Mr Jones (Sam Neill) and with the help of their older cousin Ricky (Leon Wadham), the twins must rekindle the unique powers they once shared if they are to destroy this ancient evil – before it destroys them.
Under the Mountain is doomed from the beginning as the crux of the problems revolve around the underdeveloped screenplay, poor dialogue and heavy exposition. While the film is a fantasy, it appears to try and take place in the real world, a flaw that immediately removes the viewer from the experience. The rules are ridiculous and there’s no explanation on where their origins are. For example, Sam Neill plays Mr. Jones, the “fire bringer”, who apparently can throw fire. For some reason he’s weak and losing his power, so he can’t protect the twins from the Wilberforces. No explanation is given to his weakness. In addition, he gives the twins these stones that are supposed to help them in their battle. While they need to use their “twinnes” to release the power, Theo still can launch fire at the Winderforces, how that makes sense is beyond me. In addition, the Wildberforces want to “make them dead” (yeah, hilarious choice of words) and destroy the world. Apparently, killing the twins will cause this even though it’s revealed that a group of twins were killed years before attempting to stop them. Go figure.
Furthermore, the character development is ridiculous as for some odd reason Theo doesn’t believe in his “twinness” with Rachel. So, what, they’re not twins? What’s there to believe? Why does believing in it stop the Wilberforces? The movie is loaded with unanswered questions and a ridiculous premise that introduces new rules just for the sake of progressing the story.
While some of the creatures looked cool and were reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, basically nothing happens for the entire first hour (they don’t even go under the mountain until 60 minutes in), the acting is horrendous, the FX work is shoddy and the dialogue is beyond cheesy (what’s a word for that?) They were so lazy they even had the same transitional aerial shots through the entire film! There is not a single redeemable thing about Under the Mountain as it’s neither charming nor cute, and is painstaking to watch. Go watch Black Sheep again and remember the Jonathan King who entertained us.