The Divide (2012)
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Written by: Eric Sheean, Karl Mueller
Starring: Ashton Holmes, Courtney B. Vance, Iván González, Jennifer Blanc, Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund, Milo Ventimiglia, Peter Stormare, Rosanna Arquette
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 1 min
What is it all about?
In this graphic and violent, post-apocalyptic thriller, nine strangers-all tenants of a New York high rise apartment-escape a nuclear attack by hiding out in the building’s bunker-like basement. Trapped for days underground with no hope for rescue, and only unspeakable horrors awaiting them on the other side of the bunker door, the group begins to descend into madness, each turning on one another with physical and psycho-sexual torment. While everyone in the bunker allows themselves to be overcome by desperation and lose their humanity, one survivor holds onto a thin chance for escape even with no promise of salvation on the outside
The Hughes Verdict!
The one thing you can not mistaken when watching The Divide is that the film is all Xavier Gens.
Any horror fan who has seen his dark french cult classic Frontier(s), will notice many of his signature moves in this delicious horror, from the close up eye ball, to the all out gore and of course slow mo deaths, for fans of his work this is a dream from start to finish and if anyone wants to know is this better than the film that made him so well known in the horror field, then the simple answer is……yes, but then I was not much of a fan of the french flick!
The Divide in simple terms is bleak. There I was only moaning about the too much fun angle of Cabin In The Woods and then this lands in my lap and its so different in tone and style that any horror fan who loves the concept dark and twisted will find many things to enjoy when they sit down and watch this film. Right from the off we do not get a chance to really relax because Gens does not even bother with a gentle introduction to the characters on show. Instead we have a quite surreal image of a nuclear bomb going off and simply causing devastation for anyone nearby. What caused this? Word War III? A rouge bomb? Why didn’t Jack Bauer stop it? The film does not even bother to try and answer those questions, instead we have a group of people who manage to get down to a locked basement owned by Mickey (Michael Biehn) who seemed to have some idea about the chaos that was all set to hit. He in his great wisdom has spent time to build a shelter that contains supplies, toilet and electricity that in all sense would have kept him safe, which of course is no longer possible due to his plan being gate crashed by these unwanted guests.
Even then just as we try to get some breathing space and get to know these people something else happens. Before we can even feel the despair starting to build we get an unexpected blast of a rescue team who in their white suits seem to be the hope they need only for them to pull out guns and take something away from them. That something you need to see yourself and even when the group try to discover who they are by “venturing” outside the shelter, what we get is more unanswered questions because Gens just wants to tease us in what to expect. This film is not about the bomb or the men in the white suits, this is about how the human race self destruct when locked in a room with no hope of escape or freedom.
Think of this as The Hole (the Thora Birch Underground horror- not the kiddie flick) but instead of seeing a teen horror where Keira Knightly got her breasts out, this is set for the most mature of an audience and at times while the sublime brilliance of Gens shines through, you can not help but feel its a hard slog watching these characters self destruct!
Among the faces in the shelter are the likes of Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia who starts off like a “hero” but turns into something the least expected. We also have Rosanna Arquette whose devastating loss sets her off on a downward spiral and a freaky looking Ethan Hawke lookalike Bobby (Michael Eklund) who ends up cross dressing, because I suppose that is what radiation poisoning does to some people. The star of the show is of course Biehn who just oozes class right from the off. Its a role the guy can do in his sleep, a cigar chewing muscle man who has more sense than anyone he is placed with but feels frustrated by the fact that the group just won’t listen. He also grabs all the best lines of the film and when he is not around, (which is noted for a good twenty minutes) then the film becomes a bit tiresome, because nothing really much happens when the film reaches the middle section.
The opening half is such a roller coaster that you hope the pace will keep up but its totally impossible and by the time the film reaches the middle then you do find the proceedings become a bit of a drag. My main gripe was despite spending all the time with these people we don’t really get to know them and so its hard to get the sympathy that a film of this nature requires. The group spend a lot of time eating beans, smoking and drinking water but we do not get to know the real them which frustrated me a bit! Take Eva (Lauren German) for example who becomes the stand out character of the flick, a transformation that does not occur until the last quarter but until then was largely ignored and served no real purpose to the plot.
It seems I am nit picking here but you can not help that the brilliance of the camera work by Gens is not matched by the weak script. By the time “cabin fever” strikes and the gang turn on each other, the film offers nothing new to the seen before formula. Rape, death, torture, gore and swimming in shit are all thrown at the audience and again while the striking imagery will leave your breathless, the script fails to entice the dread and so you have a film of a mixed balance We have a stunning first half, a weak second and a gore pace finale which will frustrate some but leave others believing The Divide is another gem by the hands of this director.
For me personally I was more haunted and scared by the final shot that will stay with me for days. Its a brilliant moment that shows why less is better and another reason why horror does not need to reach the route of finger cutting gore porn to get an impact. Its the final moments alone that displays the best qualities of Gens as a director because he manages to sum up all feelings in one simple shot and showcases why he as one of the best artisitc creative eyes around………