I can't tell you how disappointed I was viewing 'Under The Mountain'.
Sam Neill, at least for the most part, has been a given winner the past few decades. He's been involved with very few duds, so I treat him like Apple stock, a blue chip given.
However, not everything he touches is golden - this being a clear example.
'Mountain' has the hallmarks of a quality film - the cinematography, set design and special effects are equal to anything produced out of Hollywood. And utilizing the stunning wonder of New Zealand is, as always, breathtakingly beautiful. I also appreciated how the writers engineered the natural history of The Land Of The Kiwis into the story.
But this horror-mystical-scifi thriller falls short on so many levels.
There are three reasons I think this failed.
First, because this flick doesn't know what it wants to be - it's a production in desperate need of an identity. It touches with and hints at several types of films, but because it only toys with each idea, there's never a full commitment by the director as to what he wants to deliver to us, the audience. Therefore, we never know how to engage the story. It doesn't help that plot-holes abound.
Once heard a funny and very revealing observation about the creative process that kept running in the back of my mind while watching this production. The late Alexander Godunov played a wonderful character in the film 'The Money Pit'. Frustrated watching the ineptitude of a workman repeatedly dabbing paint onto an unfinished doorway, he snatches the brush away and says, "Up...down. Up...down. Paint. Don't tickle."
Truer words have never been spoken about any creative endeavor.
Secondly, I think this might've worked if the two leads were much younger. The story is childish and so it makes sense that this should've been a children's film. As I think back, I can see this being much more enjoyable if Theo and Rachel were, say, 10 years old. The magic of youth allows for a much greater stretch of the imagination. As young adults, this feels so much more hokey and outright silly.
And finally, there's something not quite right about the two young actors who play the leads. I'm not sure if it's a directional failure or if it's that these two just can't convey and project. But there's something undefined in their performance; it's empty. We don't feel anything for them because they're reading lines from the script, not living their roles.
Director Jonathan King needed a stronger and more focused vision long before he put images to film. He wasted such amazing talent and creative production for this disappointing product.