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Under the Mountain

3.7 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Teenage twins Rachel and Theo travel to Auckland to stay with relatives following the sudden death of their mother. Where there was once a psychic bond between them, now there is a rift as Theo, particularly, refuses to confront his grief. Rachel reaches out to him, but is rebuffed. Staying with their Aunt Kay and Uncle Cliff on Lake Pupuke, the twins are fascinated by the volcanic lake and the smell that seems to come from the creepy old Wilberforce house around the shore. They visit Mt. Eden, where Theo sees Mr. Jones, a strange old man from whose hands fire seems to glow. When it seems the twins are being watched – and that the Wilberforces can smell them – Theo resolves to investigate the Wilberforce house. Inside, he and Rachel find what can only be an alien environment. They overhear Mr. Wilberforce talking about something stirring beneath the ground. He says he will kill the twins if they find “the fire-raiser.” Rachel is alarmed and reaches out to Theo but, terrified of getting close to anyone since his mother’s death, he pushes her away and sets out alone to find the fire-raiser – the man he saw on the mountaintop.

Amazon.com

This feature adaptation of New Zealand author Maurice Gee's much-loved fantasy novel Under the Mountain benefits greatly from impressive CGI effects by the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop (The Lord of the Rings) and the presence of Sam Neill as a mysterious figure who aids two telepathic teens in a bid to save the world. The title was previously filmed as a miniseries in 1982, and cowriter-director Jonathan King--light years away from his debut film, the deliriously gory Black Sheep--works hard to compress the source material into a 90-minute film, which ups the age of its twin protagonists Rachel (Sophie McBride) and Theo (Tom Cameron) from age 12 to mid-teens and reduces their mentor, Mr. Jones (Neill), to an enigmatic cipher. The shorter running time also favors the action elements of the story, which involve the teens' discovery that their neighbors, the Wilberforces, are alien slugs who care for a monstrous, world-devouring race called the Gargantua, over the relationship between the siblings, which formed the backbone of the original novel and the reason why it found a place in the heart of so many preteen readers. As a result, teen viewers--the film's clear target audience--will either find Under the Mountain a thrilling adventure or a noisy, messy fright fest, depending on their particular tastes. However, the Weta effects are typically top-notch, especially in regard to the hideous Wilberforces. The DVD includes commentary by King and cowriter Matthew Grainger, who discuss, among other topics, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft's writing on their film's aesthetics, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette. --Paul Gaita

Special Features

• Commentaries with Jonathan King (Co-Director) and Matthew Grainger (Co-Writer).
• Making-of Documentary (47 minutes)

Product Details

  • Actors: Sam Neill, Tom Cameron, Sophie McBride, Oliver Driver, Leon Wadham
  • Directors: Jonathan King
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003MWSAKA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,088 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Under the Mountain" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Most of the necessary ingredients were there so this should have been a successful film. Billed as a Sci-Fi/Adventure, this 2009 New Zealand production though, is anything but successful. Fantastic special effects aside, the story feels incomplete, the pacing is odd, the sense of urgency slips from time to time with unnecessary distractions, the dialog was everything except informative, and the acting uniformly dull (Sam Neil in particular looked as if he wanted to be somewhere else doing anything but this movie.). The only element that worked was the spooky shape shifters living next door. If the rest of the movie had managed to capitalize on that instead of splintering off into a lackluster teen angst movie of the week this might have worked. Instead, with too many things that didn't make sense, this movie just drifted from one inexplicable scene to another: the `split' of the twins was arbitrary and forced, the sequence in the police station useless, why did the aunt and uncle keep disappearing? In addition, some of the reactions to danger were obscenely ludicrous (who, upon hearing their neighbors want to kill them, just go to bed. Or, while your front door is being broken down, just stand there and watch until the intruder is upon you!?). Crazy. What a waste.

I will add that I'm glad I watched it, but it's not a keeper.
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Format: DVD
While I haven't read Mark Gee's original novel or seen the 1981 TV serial, research indicates that Jonathan King's feature version of UNDER THE MOUNTAIN has altered elements of the story to make it more Lovecraftian than the original. The Wilberforces (the evil aliens) in the TV version are slug-like. Here, they are masses of writhing tentacles on a human frame. The concept of the main malevolent creatures slumbering under mountains and at the bottom of the lake, awaiting their followers to open a mystical door that will unleash them on our world is also very Lovecraftian. The glimpse of one of these creatures sleeping in a mountain cave could easily be Cthulhu itself! The glowing stones the twins to battle the Wilberforces remind me of August Derleth's invention of the star-stones. Then there is the blurring of science fictional ideas with the supernatural. Again, it is Lovecraftian in approach.

I am inclined to agree with MadMac's review on the on the one point that the twins Theo and Rachel would have served the story better if they had been younger, instead of teens. In fact, the twins in the TV version are 11 years old. Still I can't fault the performances of Tom Cameron and Sophie McBride.

Sam Neil is very good in this type of role as an authoritative mysterious, benevolent alien/sorcerer. His presence is one of the things that lured me to seek this film out.

I have to side with those reviewers who enjoyed the film. It is moody and mysterious. The story builds at a steady pace and erupts into a satisfying climax. The Wilberforces and their masters are unsettling but NOT overly gross. There is really no gore to speak of or large body count. If director Jonathan King was in fact shooting for a Lovecraftian film the whole family could watch, this is it. I think it works on that level.

I caught film on one of the premium movie channels, but I do plan to purchase a copy of it.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
It wasn't bad. I'd like to see more. I think any kid who likes reading books it is for them. It is that kind of book that comes alive with mystery. I wasn't bored watching it. I am a movie watcher big time and many friends listen to. I give honest answers even if it is a movie that appeals to them and not to me, and found my opinion matters to them. It is a movie for young teens. Or even adults that life sci-fi, adventure, mystery ,and special effects that appear real.
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This film is good fun and well made for those who like the fantasy film genre. We really enjoyed the evening watching it.

One of the themes I enjoyed were of course the Lovecraft references, which another viewer brought up. This was at times done with sly humor, such as in the scene with the cute little Cthulhu dangling from the rear view mirror.

It has a strong twins theme, which is developed in some unique ways -- one character is from a planet where everyone is a twin. The twins can communicate in nonverbal ways but there is also a rejection/running on the part of one of them. It deals with the total aloneness of twinless twins.

The other theme I enjoyed were the earth shaking giants stored beneath mountains, trying to get out. This is often how earthquakes are explained in legends and myths. Some malevolence is trapped deep in the earth and at times bangs around in rage, trying to escape and wreak havoc. An example is the great fiery serpent that dove into the center of earth in Zarathustrian writings. Maybe the Maori believe something similar, with the Rainbow Serpent. Don't expect a rainbow at the end of that tunnel though.

Adorable teens. Five stars.
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If you aren't familiar with New Zealand film making, this would be a great way to introduce yourself to it. It does have a well known American actor as one of the main characters, but don't watch it for that. It has a decent story line, with likable characters that make you want to root for them. It does bounce around a little in some spots, so you really have to watch it or you will get lost...maybe they had to edit it for time. All in all, it is worth a look, especially if you are into sci-fi movies. It can be a little scary for the younger viewers, so keep that in mind as well.
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