Brad Armstrong's Underworld won several major awards, including Movie of the Year at the 2013 AVN Awards and Feature Movie of the Year at the 2014 XBiz Awards. We thought we should have a look at it, then, especially after being so impressed by another award-winnning "mainstream" porn film: Wasteland.
There is a good idea here. Tanya, played by Jessica Drake, is shot during a mugging and is rushed to the hospital. While on the operating table, she descends to The Underworld. She there encounters characters representing the machines keeping her alive, the scalpel being used in surgery, her blood, the stitches and sutures, and, ultimately, death, with whom she has to fight for her life.
So, as we said, it is a good, and creative, idea, and there are some fantastic sets and costumes. But the details of the story were not nearly so impressive.
The first thing that disappointed us was when the first person Tanya meets in The Underworld explains to her that all of this, though it seems very real, is just her unconscious experience of what is happening to her under anaesthesia. Why does this need to be explained? Why not leave that as a question for the viewer to puzzle about?
That is a minor complaint. A larger one is that, while the characters in The Underworld have some symbolic significance, the sex Tanya has with them, so far as we can tell, has none. There was nothing about the way the characters behaved during sex that reflected who they were supposed to be. Worse, many of the sex scenes seemed gratuitous. That is, they had nothing to do with the story.
In the second scene, for example, a doctor (male, of course) has sex with one of the nurses (female, of course) at the hospital. We will see him again, when he operates on Tanya, but the sex has nothing to do with anything. And in the third and fifth scenes, various characters have sex after they have finished interacting with Tanya, for no other reason than that it seems like a good idea. Which is fine, in a way, but one wonders why they bother remaining in costume if they aren't going to stay in character.
The sex scenes are so independent of the story, in fact, that we aren't entirely sure we know what the story is or what its point is supposed to be. And not very much time is spent on the non-sex parts of the story: less than 30 minutes out of a fair bit over two hours.
We also were not that impressed with the acting. To be honest, we have always thought that Jessica Drake tended to overact her roles, and that is true here.
Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the sex scenes are extremely pornish and are shot in an extremely pornish way, as well. There is a lot of anal, there are a lot of facials, and so forth. That can all be fine if handled properly, but here it simply feels like a purely male sort of fantasy, one that is somewhat out of place in a movie focused on a woman.
Scene 1: Jessica Drake and Steven St Croix
This is a fairly short scene, and there is no build-up at all. The sex is reasonably realistic and passionate, however, though she never seems at all aroused.
The camera work is medicore at best. There are some wider shots, but mostly we see him only incidentally.
She sucks his cock, and then they get into a 69. He flips them over and eats her pussy from behind, then pulls her up onto her knees and fucks her from behind. She squats over him, then falls onto her knees. She then lies on her back, and he kneels up in front of her. She rubs her clit a bit, and he then pulls out and tries to cum into her mouth, but mostly dribbles onto her tits.
Scene 2: Presley Hart and Brad Armstrong
Doctor and nurse have a quickie in the nap room.
There is some authentic passion in the sex, but she becomes much too (seemingly) aroused much too fast, which makes the rest of it seemed overly performed, though she does at least seem to cum. And, unfortunately, the ending is completely pornish.
The camera work is again very unbalanced. There are some wider shots from time to time, but we hardly see him at all while she is sucking him, and we lose him, fairly badly, once they start fucking. There's no indication at all that any real effort is being made to include him in the scene.
He pushes her back onto the bed and puts his hand into her pants, rubbing her pussy. He then pulls down her pants to her knees, pushes back her legs, pulls her panties aside, and goes down on her. He puts two and then three fingers into her, finger-fucking her. He then kneels by her head, and she pulls down his pants and sucks his cock. He strokes her pussy and asshole, then goes back to fingering her.
She pulls her pants off over her shoes as he stands up and takes off his shirt. He then fucks her mouth as she squats in front of him. He stands her up and rubs her pussy as he holds her to him and reaches around her, then pushes her onto the bed and eats her from behind. She kneels up and takes off her shirt and bra as he puts on a condom, then fucks her from behind.
He lies on the bed, and she gets astride him on her knees. They then roll over so he is on top of her. She bucks her hips onto him as he encourages her to cum on his cock, and she may cum at about 27:40. They keep fucking, and he pulls out and cums into her open mouth.
Scene 3: Julia Ann and Xander Corvus
Slice (Xander Corvus) and Mecha (Julia Ann), who represent the surgeon's scalpel and the machines keeping Tanya alive, have sex after they see her on her way.
The camera work here is a bit more interesting, overall, than in the first two scenes. But most of the shots are tight on her face. And this particular scene makes no sense in the context of the movie. Why are these two having sex? What does it have to do with anything?
She sucks his cock as he stands (on stilts or something) in front of her. He fucks her face a bit, and she then jerks him until he cums onto her tongue.
Scene 4: Asa Akira, Jessica Drake, Eric Masterson, and TJ Cummings
Scarlet (Asa Akira) represents the blood that is being poured into Tanya's body from a transfusion. Why that means there is a foursome is not at all clear.
This is a completely pornish scene that feels dance-like at the beginning, and simply performed later. No one ever seems to be enjoying themselves terribly much.
We barely see the men at all—so little, in fact, that it was difficult for us to tell who was who for several minutes. And there are way, way too many "medical" shots.
Scarlet and Tanya kiss as they stand, and the two men stroke the women's lower bodies as they kneel next to and behind them. TJ then starts eating Tanya's pussy as she sits on a kind of bed, and Scarlet sucks Eric's cock. TJ stands, and Tanya sucks his cock, and Asa gets on all fours as Eric fucks her from behind.
TJ lies down on the bed, and Scarlet sucks him briefly before Tanya goes back to doing so. Tanya then feeds Scarlet TJ's cock, while Eric is still fucking her, and Scarlet pulls off him, turns around, and sucks him.
Eric then fucks Tanya as she lies on the bed, and TJ fucks Scarlet doggy-style. Scarlet then gets astride TJ on her knees, then gets off him again and sucks his cock as Tanya rides Eric. Asa gets atop TJ in a 69, and Eric then fucks her, doggy style, in the ass while Tanya rides TJ, reverse, first with her pussy, then with her ass.
TJ eats Tanya briefly, and then the two guys fuck Tanya together, as she lies over TJ. One of them pulls out of her ass and starts jerking as if he is going to cum in Tanya's open mouth. Asa leans over the other guy and jerks him until he cums in her mouth. Tanya then sucks him clean, and the women kiss. The first guy then cums onto both their faces.
Scene 5: Adrianna Luna, Embry Prada, and Tommy Gunn
Tanya emerges from a weird funky part of the Underworld into the dessert, where she is guided by the King of the Bone People (Tommy Gunn) and his two fiercest warriors (Adrianna Luna, Embry Prada). After they have taken her as far as they can, they have sex in the desert.
This entire scene is fairly pornish. There's no real relationship established between these three, and it is not at all obvious why they are having sex with each other (even "for fun"). Nor does anyone actually seem to be having much fun.
Needless to say, neither of the women ever seems near orgasm. He pulls out and cums into both their mouths.
The camera work is similar to that in the previous scenes. There are a few good moments, but the focus is much too much on the two women.
Scene 6: Capri Cavanni and Jessica Drake
Capri represents the gauze the surgeons are using. She and Jessica have sex on something akin to a lily pad in a very shallow pond.
The sex does not feel at all authentic, but the camera work here is much more interesting than in the earlier scenes, and overall the visual feel is very good. But it just doesn't feel as if either of them is really enjoying themselves (the performers or the characters), which leaves us wondering what they are doing and why. This is especially puzzling since "Gauze" tells Tanya at the beginning, "Lay back, close your eyes, and just breathe". The next thing we see is them having sex. Some sort of massage might have made sense here.
Jessica eats Capri's pussy from behind as Capri lies on her stomach, then puts a couple fingers into her, and Capri reaches back and rubs her clit. Jessica slaps Capri's ass a few times, then fingers her quite hard.
They switch positions, and Capri fucks Jessica's ass with a glass dildo. Jessica then takes control of the dildo, and Capri rubs her pussy from behind. Capri then lies on her back under Jessica, fucking herself with a glass dildo while eating Jessica's pussy. Jessica then grabs the dildo Capri is using and fucks her with it while leaning over her, from the side, to lick her clit. Capri reaches down to rub her clit, and she may cum at about 1:31:30.
Scene 7: Asphyxia Noir, Jessica Drake, and Toni Ribas
Tanya is "stitched" to a wall, and Stitch (Asphyxia Noir) and Suture (Toni Ribas), Stitch says, want to "hold her tight". She is released, and she and Stitch have sex on a bench of sorts, where they are soon joined by Suture.
The scene is, again, fairly pornish. No one seems to be having a particularly good time, and the entire scene feels like a performance with no particular purpose—which is especially annoying, since the scene is the longest in the movie. Neither of the women ever seems very aroused. He pulls out and cums on Stitch's stomach.
As in much of the rest of this movie, we simply do not see much of him at all. And there is not much interesting about the camera work. There is an attempt to do something with the way scenes are switched—there's a sort of flash-back, flash-forward thing that happens—but it doesn't really work.
Scene 8: Jessica Drake and Derrick Pierce
Tanya meets Death (Derrick Pierce) and attempts to bribe him with sex.
This is a very silly scene, with her being ordered, "Get on your knees and beg for your life", by sucking his cock. Which seems like a very strange metaphor that unintentionally illustrates the sort of powerplay too often at work in porn, one that favors those who have power anyway. The rest of the sex is no better, and no more interesting.
To be honest, we barely paid attention to this scene. The sex feels almost like a way of delaying the actual end of the movie.
As we mentioned above, the Death character obviously has some symbolic value, and her attempted bribe has some, too: She's a "fighter". But the sex itself does not pick up any of those themes, let alone develop them. How could it do so? She could become sexually dominant, make him do her bidding, or something of that sort. On the contrary, it ends with him being dominant in the standard, pornish way: by cumming into her open mouth as she kneels in front of him.