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Award winning short film writer director Ian Clark (“Jenny and the Worm”) makes his feature debut with the horror thriller “The Facility”, which arrives now on region 2 DVD via eOne Momentum, having played various fests under the name “Guinea Pigs”. A claustrophobic, low budget British take on the likes of “28 Days Later”, “The Crazies” and other fast/angry/infected/non-zombie shockers, the film stars a handful of semi-recognisable faces including Alex Reid (“The Descent” plus sequel), Steve Evets (“Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) and Oliver Coleman (“The Other Boleyn Girl”).
The setup involves 7 unfortunate strangers who volunteer to take part in a clinical drug trial at the inevitably remote Limebrook Medical Clinic. Enticed by a fee of £2000 for 2 weeks in isolation and being injected with the experimental Pro9, they soon find things going very wrong indeed, as one of the group starts to convulse violently and vomit blood before attacking the others. The effects of Pro9 are quickly revealed to be homicidal madness and death, and with the guinea pigs trapped in the building and unable to call for help, the scene is set for a bloody battle for survival.
“The Facility” is described as being a slice of Cronenbergian body-horror, though aside from some vague similarities to early works such as “Rabid” and “Shivers”, it’s very much “28 Days Later” in a confined setting and with a medical twist. While this might not sound terribly appealing or original, Ian Clark does a surprisingly solid job of pulling it all together, and the film is an efficient and occasionally exciting horror thriller that generally presses most of the right buttons.
The drug trial theme works well to ground the plot and make it at least semi-believable, and though the viewer knows exactly where it’s going from the start, Clark still manages to wring a certain level of tension from the generic premise, and although not exactly frightening, the film packs in its fair share of jolts, helped by some decent gore and makeup effects work. The pacing is well-judged, and the film moves along at a fast pace, rarely pausing for breath between set pieces, and this serves well to distract from its inherent familiarity. Clark is clearly a talented director, making great use of what was likely quite a limited budget, and the film looks and feels professional throughout, which in itself is enough to lift it several notches above most others of its type.
It’s not all good news though, and where the film falls down is through a pretty weak script that’s clearly more focused on action than character, Clark populating the story with a poorly written group of stereotypes. With none of them even having the decency to be annoying in a hurry up and die kind of way, the faceless bunch are as indistinct and disposable as it’s possible to be, and this does detract from the overall impact of the many death scenes as well as leaving the film devoid of the human drama which would definitely have given it more punch. It has to be said that this isn’t really the fault of the better than average cast though, most of whom turn in decent performances, let down by some generic and dull dialogue.
Still, this isn’t enough to derail the film, and a lack of substantial character writing isn’t necessarily the worst sin for a low-budget horror to commit. “The Facility” is certainly better than expected, and scores well on most other genre levels, Ian Clark making a fine feature debut that bodes well for his future as a director.
Ian Clark (director) / Ian Clark (screenplay)
CAST: Alex Reid … Joni
Aneurin Barnard … Adam
Chris Larkin … Dr. Mansell
Steve Evets … Morty
Jack Doolan … Toby
Oliver Coleman … Jed
Amit Shah … Arif
Nia Roberts … Katie
Skye Lourie … Carmen
Emily Butterfield … Madeline