MoleA digitally lensed indie from 2001 that has yet to receive the attention it deserves. MOLE is certainly one of the strongest subway-set horror films of its era, ranking with, if not eclipsing entirely, the likes of CREEP, END OF THE LINE and NIGHT TRAIN.

With all the SOV crap we’ve been subjected to in recent years I find it astonishing that MOLE never received any kind of legitimate theatrical or DVD release—although it did play the early-00s festival circuit, where it won at least one prestigious award. Since then, alas, it appears to have vanished.

New York reporter Susan Pei is intrigued by reports of people murdered in abandoned subway tunnels. She enlists the help of her cameraman friend Nick, and also the nerdy Tom, an apparent expert on the subject, to investigate the area.

The three initially find the subway tunnels deserted. Some searching turns up two surly homeless men who warn them not to take a wrong turn lest they run into “Moles”—savage people who’ve lived their entire lives in certain underground tunnels. Susan, Nick and Tom are chased into just such a tunnel by the two men. Finding themselves trapped, they split up, with Nick and Tom both venturing off by themselves. As Susan grows increasingly giddy with fear Nick returns to her side, but Tom doesn’t.

Susan and Nick venture further into what turns out to be an increasingly surreal underground world. Human bones are found scattered amid odd stone structures, and then the not-entirely-human moles finally show up…

MOLE admittedly owes something to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, with which it shares digitally shot handheld visuals and horrors that never entirely reveal themselves. But it works nonetheless due to the thought and care bequeathed by the filmmakers, and also the on-location scenery.

Anyone who’s seen the mesmerizing homeless-people-living-in-subway-tunnels documentary DARK DAYS (which premiered around the same time as this film) will know that MOLE’s makers didn’t have to do much to make their underground scenery look scary, as the bleak garbage-strewn subway tunnels seen here are as eerie and forbidding as any old dark mansion. Equally effective is the flashlight-based illumination, which always leaves a portion of every scene in darkness.

The film, alas, isn’t all good. The acting is substandard at best, and one of the protagonists disappears far too soon for the three-way character dynamic to make much of an impression. The frequent cutaways to wide shots of New York City at night do nothing to advance the action or denote the passing of time, as nearly the entire film takes place after sundown. Still, this creepy and suspenseful effort leaves a haunting impression, and deserves a look.

Vital Statistics

Mauro Entertainment/CineBLAST! Productions

Director: Richard Mauro, Anthony Savini
Producer: Richard Mauro
Screenplay: Richard Mauro, Anthony Savini
Cinematography: Anthony Savini
Editing: Magnus Akten, Andrea Beckerman-Harper
Cast: John-Luke Montias, Sam Tsao, James Cox, Conrad Glover, Martin Gray, Tarik Kanne