Monday, 17 June 2013

The Facility - Movie Review

I have a bit of a bias towards old horror. Going through my old posts, I thought I had a good mix, but then realized that the 5-part Hammer Horror behemoth tipped the balance somewhat heavily, putting the average age of the movies reviewed on here somewhere around 1975. Ah well.

The reasons for this are many, but the main one is to do with filtration. I'll explain:
  1. Most film reviewers, including several high-profile ones, don't really approach horror very well. I have no idea why, and it's just my opinion, but there we go.
  2. As such me finding stuff I would like relies on (a) word-of-mouth (or rather, word-of-internet), (b) working my way through a director's back catalog and (c) wild stabs in the dark. 
  3. The longer a film is out, the better (a) works, which is the best of the three.
This review is of one chosen through option (c).

Saturday night I was at my parent's house for Father's Day the next day, when myself and my girlfriend found ourselves unexpectedly alone and with access to my sister's collection of schlocky, modern horror. We selected The Facility based on the premise, which sounded intriguing enough (human guinea pigs test new drug, bad things happen) and watched the theatrical trailer:

Looked serviceable. So we watched it.

Hmm. First the positive.

The first thing to say about this is that it is clearly low budget and very stripped down. There's one location: the facility itself (thank you, Captain Obvious), which might have been used for interiors as well from the look of it and nicely coveys a sense of both isolation and claustrophobia. It also doesn't make the mistake a lot of these sorts of films make - the building exterior, nor any of the rooms inside actively look evil. You ever see a film with one of these "let's gather strangers together" premises where any sane person with working eyes would have walked after five minutes? Yeah, this one doesn't do that. It's refreshing.

The cast are redshirts to a man, and there's only about ten people in the film altogether. They're an interesting enough bunch so you can tell them apart when bad stuff goes down, but not a lot more than that. The doctor and nurse seem sympathetic and friendly, the test subjects alternate between anxious newcomers and grizzled veterans (literally, in one case), there's a bloke who wants to break all the rules, etc. etc. They're all cut from 100% horror archetype cloth, but at least you know where you stand. and the slow realization that the staggered injections mean that they are all doomed in turn does make them all somewhat sympathetic in their plight. 

They are all, of course, complete morons in the other great tradition of horror, leaving doors open all over the place, discovering a CCTV system then not using it to track where the crazier members of the party have gone, not taking one of the many, MANY opportunities to escape and go get help, but these are people who have signed up for a medical trial for two weeks. They went in expecting to essentially sit around for two weeks. It's not that surprising that they continue to do so when the proverbial hits the fan.

So what about the negative? First off, the nature of the trial itself seems a bit off. Sure, you can buy into the idea that it's all hush-hush and the trial was supposed to go 'wrong' but I'm not sure what a medical trial with only seven people in it is supposed to tell anyone. I suppose if you got a good mix, but still. Also, what the drug is supposed to be doing is not made clear. Is it an anti-psychotic? A painkiller? No idea.

I could forgive all that, however (movies and science, especially medical science, is always a bit hit-and-miss, or rather miss-and-bigger-miss) if it wasn't for this movies other problem, which is that it is boring. That trailer? That literally is all of the scary bits in this film. Stretch them out over 80 minutes and add in a LOT of talking and that is the movie. It's not scary enough.

The third problem is that it keeps setting up sub-plots that go precisely nowhere. There's a journalist investigating The Facility. One character finds out he's in the clear. One of the staff survives long enough to get in radio contact. The CCTV, which I mentioned. The film ends, abruptly, leaving many threads hanging and onscreen text that doesn't exactly wrap things up, instead going for an "aren't pharmaceutical companies EVIL" vibe instead. 

But surely the nail in the coffin of any horror picture is it not being scary. If it doesn't make you at least jump, it's not really worth the time. 

The Facility is not offensively bad, nor is it so-bad-it's-good. It won't do you any harm. It's just dull.

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