Published Sep 15, 2009New Zealand director Jonathan King made a (bloody) splash at TIFF in 2006 with the world premiere of his horror/comedy feature debut, Black Sheep. Under The Mountain is based on a popular teen-oriented novel by top New Zealand writer Maurice Gee, which was adapted as a TV series in the early '80s.
There is an old-fashioned sensibility to this fantasy adventure film, one in which a moral message — the power that comes from sibling unity — takes precedence over the amoral bloodletting pervasive in most contemporary teen suspense flicks.
Teen twins Rachel (Sophie McBride) and Theo (Tom Cameron) must use their joint powers to thwart the evil Wilberforce clan (led by Oliver Driver, from Black Sheep) and the aliens residing under Auckland's volcanoes. They're aided in their mission by the enigmatic Mr. Jones, played with usual subtle skill by Sam Neill.
King and co-writer Matthew Grainger lighten the tension with comedy, such as the attempts by the twin's horny cousin to score with his girlfriend (he pleads for five minutes to do the deed before they fight the aliens). As expected, the special effects from the famed Weta Workshop team (The Lord Of The Rings) are top-notch, while the orchestral score from Victoria Kelly is generally effective.
The natural beauty of Auckland's harbours and hills is also utilized well. Under the Mountain is a nicely constructed work that deserves success in the family entertainment market. (E1)