“Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.” — IMDb
Canadian directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie — who also co-wrote The Void — are two to keep an eye on, for sure. It’s heavily influenced by some of the most well-known masters of the genre — Lovecraft, Fulci, and Carpenter, primarily — but it still feels like a unique force of its own.
The story — which almost feels like too cohesive a description — centers around a group of townspeople who become trapped in an all but abandoned hospital, held hostage by a mysterious group of cloaked individuals wielding knives. What is merely a startling inconvenience at first becomes much more dire when they begin to catch a glimpse at just what kind of hell is brewing within those walls…
** SPOILERS! **
I know this film has gotten some wildly differing reviews since its release, but I personally really enjoyed it. Again, despite its myriad of inspiration, it felt different to me, felt like it had a life of its own. I was a little surprised to read that the directors purposely tried to stay away from referencing The Thing since those were some of the strongest vibes I got from at least the initial creatures we see on screen, but I won’t ever complain about a John Carpenter reference.
I do think its a movie that warrants more than one viewing. I first watched it several months ago and didn’t love it — I couldn’t put my finger on why but it just didn’t hit me. I ended up not getting around to reviewing it then (I had a little blind spot of reviews back in the summertime), so I re-watched it the other night with my husband, and I was surprised at how much more I enjoyed it on this second viewing. It’s a complex story, at least in the third act, and I think getting a repeat rundown on the plot was helpful.
The visuals and overall style of this film are, admittedly, a huge part of what carries it. It has many scenes that range from subtly impressive to downright gorgeous. The available light shots — like the exterior of the hospital with slick, wet pavement or the cloaked strangers illuminated by the cold, flashing lights of the police cruiser — are great. The interspersed shots of dramatic landscapes with rolling black clouds and thunder booming in the distance are ominous to say the least, adding even more of a suffocating sense of dread. Rich reds and blues throughout. The low light throughout may be done to mask what was, ultimately, a low budget film, but it works with the overall mood and aesthetic.
And that doesn’t even mention the creature effects, which they thankfully went more old school with rather than relying on CGI. Again, this may have been done for budgetary reasons — one of the interviews I read had them joking about how an exploded head in one scene was just a balloon full of blood, or how they made many of the tentacles out of bubble wrap and everyday objects like a measuring tape — but I will take handmade special effects over CGI any freaking day. They managed to create some terrifyingly convincing creatures and the fact that they did it with a whole bunch of trial and error is even more impressive. I mean, the moment when Daniel (Aaron Poole) opens the door to the operating room and sees tentacles stretched in every direction… insane.
The music feels pretty perfect when it does pop in, but they aren’t afraid of silence either.
I think it managed to be intensely creepy and horrifying without ever feeling cheesy. You really feel like you’re trapped in the hospital with them, and you’re conflicted with these dueling feelings of wanting to know what’s in that sub-basement but also wanting to run forever and ever. There are some great fight scenes with the creatures but it never feels like gore for gore’s sake. The whole film feels intentional.
Even the film’s reveal just worked for me. Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh) is so memorable, so shocking, of a character… and scary in the way that only a villain who truly thinks he’s done good, who thinks he’s a genius, a god, can be. They wrote some damn good monologues for him, too — you get the sense that he’s truly omnipotent.
Ultimately, an interestingly complex storyline with awesome monsters and a treat for the eyes as well.
Rating: 7/10 | Director: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski | Writer: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski | Music: Blitz//Berlin, Joseph Murray, Menalon Music, Lodewijk Vos | Cinematography: Samy Inayeh | Starring: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Mik Byskov