My notes on the 2011 FrightFest choice.
‘2002. The military has captured and imprisoned a supernatural entity.’
The set-up here is intriguing: American Hayley Sands (Katherine Flynn), a civilian parapsychologist whose PacMan sweat-pants are the liveliest visual effect in the film, visits a British army base, mostly underground, where military men and scientists have penned ‘a supernatural entity’ (it seems to be a ghost, rather than a demon) and tries to understand the creature, while Major Lester (Grant Masters), the martinet in charge, is keener on discovering how to weaponise the thing. Sadly, Jason Arnopp’s script – from a story co-written with director Dan Turner – doesn’t pursue the Nigel Kneale-like possibilities of the premise, and it boils down to another Britflick (cf: Nine Lives, Long Time Dead) in which characters are possessed by a body-hopping demon and turn on each other. The military plan seems pretty vague – it boils down to tossing a terrorist (Munir Khairdin) into the entity’s pen and seeing what happens, though this makes for the best moment in the film as the subject levitates and is used like a puppet to dance to ‘Frere Jacques’, while semi-possessed soldiers chant along with the tune.
The dynamic of a single humanitarian woman set against vicious soldiers with impotent science guys on the sidelines seems to derive from Day of the Dead, though the invisible being here – mostly represented by sparkly ghost flames, though it also prods a few faces like the entity in The Entity and rips the limbs off a bureucratic Minister (Andrew Hall) who has tried to shut down Lester – doesn’t have much presence even as unseen beings go. The ranks are full of undercharacterised soldier boys who mostly function as a chorus. The setting is suitably oppressive, with very few lights and lots of corrugated iron, and there are flashes of story ideas, but this still disappoints – having shown some ambition in its premise, it keeps defaulting to ordinary material.
Mark Gordon Palmer It sounds a bit like Wes Craven’s Mind Ripper. I really loved Mind Ripper, I found it really claustrophobic and cool. The ‘Frere Jacques’ dance you describe sounds a bit like the unexpected and chilling moment in Star Trek they made Kirk and Spock sing random nonsense songs in Plato’s Stepchildren. Far more shocking than the Uhura/ Kirk kiss that shocked America. I had to look up ‘PacMan sweat pants’ though. Thanks!