Following the post-apocalyptic Pandorica and the vampires-in-a-forest picture Redwood, British writer-director Tom Paton delivers another ambitious, low-budget genre picture. The earlier films were set mostly out of doors, but this forsakes the woods for a claustrophobic underground complex (an impressive and well-used location) which is Guantanamo Bay for Lovecraftian Elder Gods. An opening crawl fills in the hidden history of mankind’s troubles with ancient tentacled entities which often trespass in our plane of reality and have to be rounded up by a covert agency called Artemis, interrogated, and then deported back to the abyss from whence they came.
It’s a strong idea, developing a recent trend (cf: The Endless, The Void, The Creature Below, Attack of the Adult Babies) for welding the cosmic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft and his school to contemporary issues – though it might not be all that helpful to imagine a situation whereby the worst policies of the West during the War on Terrror are entirely justified. Erebus (Kris Johnson), the captured Great Old One at the centre of the story, is a scraggy-haired, hulking villain out of a 1980s direct-to-video action film and spends the film playing Lecter headgames with his captors while the usual fanatical cult of slime-worshippers invade the facility to let him loose … but, in a year when inhumane treatment once reserved for terrorist suspects is being applied to asylum-seekers and even legal migrants, it might have made sense to cloud the issue by having a prisoner who at least presents a more innocent aspect. For all its late-in-the-day revelations about what Erebus actually wants, this risks being ICE’s favourite horror film – see, they’re all monsters so it’s okay to put their kids in cages.
The black site is staffed by hard-bitten spooks who have to be proficient in martial arts because guns are not used there, and the plot is essentially Rio Bravo as white-masked, hoodie-sporting cultists breach the supposedly super-secure facility and take out most of the agents, putting lead characters Leonhart (Lauren Ashley Carter, of Imitation Girl, Jugface, Pod, Darling, The Mind’s Eye and other interesting indie genre fare), Ackerman (Jessica-Jane Stafford) and Wilkinson (Angela Dixon, from Never Let Go and Offensive) in a bind. That retro vibe is so prevalent in current genre cinema stretches to 70s John Carpenter synth thrumms, 80s Cannon-look neon graphics credits, and 90s Albert Pyun-level martial artists battering each other in concrete corridors action (stuntwoman Phoebe Robinson-Galvin especially cuts loose as the main cult baddie). It has a couple of (repeated) big amazing CGI shots of the extra-dimensional beasts, but mostly adopts a more cramped aesthetic, with thumps and barbed dialogue rather than large-scale psychedelic carnage.