AVAILABLE ON DVD AND DOWNLOAD: 6TH May
RUNNING TIME: 80 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Text at the beginning of the film:
On 10th August 2010, seven volunteers attended a clinical trial run by ProSynthetic Pharmaceuticals. In exchange for a fee of £2000, these guinea pigs agreed to spend two weeks testing an experimental new drug called Pro9. This is what happened……
So here we have another British indie horror film, and going by their general high standard and the film’s premise, I had every right to expect another fine product which I would rave about and moan about it going straight to DVD while far inferior efforts end up on our cinema screens. Well, I’m not quite going to rave about The Facility, because it’s nothing outstanding and didn’t really fulfil my high expectations, though that’s probably my fault for expecting another The Fallow Field or The Seasoning House. Undemanding horror films will probably be quite pleased with The Facility; it’s tense, uncomfortable, makes good use of its primary setting and is very well acted by its small cast. Unfortunately it lacks much in the way of surprises and doesn’t really have enough spark or originality to stand out amongst the pack. As the credits came up, my thoughts were: “ummm…that was good, but….”
Actually the film is very good in its early scenes. Our seven test subjects arrive at the Limebrook Clinic, meet up, and one by one go into a room where a nurse injects them with some of Pro9 [2 mgs and then apparently daily top-ups of 1mg…..], and we get to know something about these people in short, almost jagged scenes which don’t really flow with each other but which is obviously the point. There’s Adam, the first character we meet and not actually someone characterised that well except that he is somewhat serious, but he makes do as our ‘hero’, the nice guy who is clearly the one we are intended to most identify with. There’s Joni, an office temp who has done this several times before and has a ‘seen it all before’ attitude. Dumb blonde Carmen. Nervous Arif who is just in it for the money. Journalist Katie whom you just know is going to get too deep inside her own story. Estate agent and fitness freak Jerome who is the one person I couldn’t stand and wanted something horrible to happen after a few seconds of him being on screen. And Morty, an old hippie who seems to have spent most of his life as a lab rat and has probably consumed more chemicals than Amy Winehouse and Iggy Pop put together.
Of course some of these people are stereotypes but I always say, there wouldn’t be stereotypes without lots of folk like this existing in the first place, and I have certainly known people like some of these. Now I should say right here that the performances really are quite impressive in this film. The best for me was Steve Evets as Morty, making his character fully rounded and very convincing as he runs the full gamut from dirty letch to know-it-all expert to harbringer of doom, but then again the part is very well written too and he has some great lines such as, when talking about if Pro9 is a psycho-active drug, he says the consequences could be “anything the human mind can imagine”. I enjoyed seeing Alex Reid who horror fans will recognise from the Descent movies and will probably join me in wondering why her career hasn’t quite taken off in the way it ought to. The cast work really well together and especially score in the early scenes, most notably when they are having their injections. These little scenes are a great example of economical writing and I really wondered if writer/director Ian Clark, whose shorts like Jenny And The Worm really sound like something I must check out, is an outstanding talent.
Well, I still thought Clark was a talent as the film finished, if not quite an outstanding one. The first third of The Facility really does work well and nicely sets us up for the terror you expect to follow. Except for Morty telling a scary story about another test clinic, Clark doesn’t do much in the way of the expected creepy atmosphere or fore-shadowing; it’s just little details like – horror of horrors – our protagonists have to give their phones in, which to many people these days is probably worse than losing a limb. Then Things Start To Happen; someone goes insane whilst having a nightmare, the nurse is seen running away outside, somebody else is covered in blood, someone bangs on the main door to outside, and it all becomes like The Crazies but set in one location with just a few people. There’s the expected tension of Who’s Next and even some emotion as people you like start losing their humanity, but sadly the proceedings never really frighten and then, just when you think it’s on the verge of reaching a higher level, the film just stops.
Though not a Found Footage flick, it does feel very realistic with the total lack of a music score and Stuart Bentley’s hand-held camerawork, which may actually make you feel someone is filming what’s going on. There’s even some good use of scenes viewed through cameras, the kind of stuff that has really been done to death with things like the Paranormal Activity series. Of course the obligatory Shakycam is present, with one scene about half way through, involving someone stupidly letting someone in from outside, so incoherently shot I couldn’t tell what the hell just happened, but actually there’s not much use of this afterwards, and Clark manages one really effective sequence lit by quick camera flashes that is very well done indeed. Elsewhere there’s a real sense of the sterile nature of the location, and much mileage made of all those long dark corridors, but as I said earlier, the film just seems to pull back from being as scary as it should be. The blood and gore effects though, if often just seen briefly or from a distance, are rather convincing, once again proving, if it was ever needed, that CGI is no match for good old-fashioned practical effects, and a few really nasty bits of business are chillingly handled in a rather dispassionate manner.
Though perhaps also inspired by films like Exit, Clark seems at times to be trying to channel early David Cronenberg with his film. He hasn’t really got near the unique and compulsive mixture of disgust and intelligence that the great Canadian director made his own, but I reckon he may get there someday. In the mean time, The Facility is worth checking out, even if in the end it doesn’t really reach the heights its first third suggests it may.
* The Making Of The Facility
* Teaser Trailer