A grunts-vs-ghouls picture not unlike writer-director Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers in general liveliness, this feels like a bit of a throwback – it could almost be an extra entry in the surprisingly hardy Outpost series or an add-on to the likes of Mind Ripper or The Dyatlov Pass Incident. The ingredients are familiar and nicely mixed, but it still has less ambition than Marshall’s Dog Soldiers follow-up The Descent – here, the character stuff is cuddly military movie fanfic (with character names borrowed from Zulu and a foulup squad tagged ‘a Dirty Half-Dozen’) rather than the point of the story. It’s a fun monster movie, though.
A few years ago – ie: before the allies pulled out of Afghanistan – Flight Lieutenant Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) survives being shot down in rocky desert mountains (which will be the last time any of insurgents hit anything, despite firing off guns while standing in full view and waiting for the blood squibs to go off) and is chased to a chained-up abandoned Soviet installation and breaks in. During a fight underground, canisters of goop get smashed and monsters are unleashed – it takes several infodumps and a late-in-the-day reveal involving a wristwatch to explain what exactly they are, but they look a lot like the vampire Martian from It! The Terror From Beyond Space and appear to like eating human flesh and draining human brains. Sinclair escapes from the lair and runs into a patrol from an outpost manned by various folk who don’t really trust each other – a one-eyed Yank senior officer (Jamie Bamber), a rugby fan Welsh SAS man (Leon Ockenden), a kleptomaniac African-American grunt (Tanji Kibong), a crusty bloke called Hook (Jonathan Howard), an overworked military doc (Mark Strepan), a big guy called Bromhead (Troy Alexander), a captured local who hates monsters more than invaders (Hadi Khanjanpour). Plot wheels spin as introductions are made and arguments started, then the monster attacks begin – they attack by night, like vampires.
From then on, it’s basically a matter of not getting too attached to anyone since they’re liable to get gutted or gored to death, and noting that no faction in the film has much of a grasp of tactics (every side takes needless casualties) but the stunt and special effects teams are having a ball showing how badly everything can go wrong. Marshall clearly loves schlock, and does the requisite nods to the ‘80s with a Thing-like alien autopsy and an obligatory slo-mo walk of the grizzled, battered heroes towards a near-suicide mission. Like Dog Soldiers, this crams moments of British-specific eccentricity – a speech about the prowess of Welsh rugby star J.P.R. Williams – into the kind of gung ho action more often found in American movies.