I don’t mean to be another incarnation of “that guy” but this really does buckle under the excessive John Carpenter vibes. Not just in the electro-pulse score but by sharing Carpenter’s penchant for the single-location-under-siege set-up that he used so well in everything from Assault on Precinct 13 to Prince of Darkness. Still, the practical effects are a joy and this isn’t afraid of being the kind of genre movie that embraces the thrill of seeing a dude repeatedly thrust an axe into a big rubber monster without skimping on the gore and bodily fluids. The design of the monster is pretty cool too. It looks weird and disgusting but I wish they’d gone a bit further with it.
The film also falls afoul of the “mini-mission” video-game plotting that is so often a by-product of confined thrillers. Rather than telling a developing story, a lot of these films instead feature a slew of stock-archetypes surviving through an escalating series of tasks – get to the lab for medicine, get to the car in the car park etc. – and given that this kind of storytelling fills out endless episodes of, say, The Walking Dead, on a near-weekly basis it’s just not as engaging as it used to be. The film’s tensions are also a way too familiar, a damsel in distress here, a knife to somebody’s throat there, meaning the old “seen this a hundred times before” fatigue sets in rather early.
Nevertheless, the movie does have a coherence in atmosphere and ideas as well as clear affection for this milieu on the filmmakers part, so I managed to stick with it to the very end. The casting is a mixed bag but the appearance of some familiar faces (KNIVES FUCKING CHAU!) is rewarding enough to sustain interest. A bit disposable, a bit too familiar but it’s a solid example of the kind of movie it aspires to be. For viewers with less reference points, however, this could easily be a pretty thrilling and nasty genre experience and definitely a gateway flick into lots of other weird movies. Whether or not they’d return to this after discovering something like The Thing remains to be seen.