Studio: Tribeca Film
Director: Ian Clark
Writer: Ian Clark
Producer: Megan Stuart Wallace, Mat Wakeham
Stars: Aneurin Barnard, Oliver Coleman, Steve Evets, Skye Lourie, Alex Reid, Nia Roberts, Amit Shah
A medical facility becomes a house of horrors when the clinical trial for an experimental drug goes terribly wrong.
Strong acting, canny production design, and a sound premise power “The Facility” all the way through to its climax, only to discover that the engine lacks enough coal to complete a full circuit. Whether depleted of financial resources, creative ideas, or both, writer/director Ian Clark’s first time feature fizzles to a sudden halt that leaves an impression of “The Facility” being only half a film.
Seven strangers convene at the Limebrook Medical Facility as participants in a double blind clinical trial for a new drug known as Pro9. In this case, double blind means that the test subjects do not even know what the drug is or what it does. They only know that they will receive £2000 as compensation at the end of the two-week trial, and everyone is apparently comfortable with being left in the dark regarding any other details. Seeing as this experiment is being conducted within a horror movie, things go horribly out of hand when the drug begins transforming the patients into bloodlusting maniacs within mere hours of their initial dosages.
The convenient assembly of familiar stereotypes including the vain braggart, grizzled veteran, mousy quiet girl, thoughtful good guy, and sneaky opportunist is forgivably justified by the experiment needing a disparate range of persons for guinea pigs. What depth the personalities lack in their scripting is compensated by sincere performances from a skillful cast.
Recently seen as Bill Macy in the BBC TV series “In the Flesh,” Steve Evets plays the most developed character. Having made a career from renting himself out as a human lab rat, the cantankerous Morty is at once reliable for his medical testing experience, but untrustworthy for his quickness to cut throats while everyone else debates a moral dilemma. As the type of arrogant hothead who refers to exercise as “maintenance” for a chiseled chest of tribal tattoos, Oliver Coleman’s Jed rests at the other end of the originality spectrum. Perhaps sensing that the familiar taste of his tired traits might be too passé, “The Facility” takes the high road of making Jed the first to succumb to the adverse effects of Pro9.
Once the medication kicks in, “The Facility” turns into a competent mixture of “The Crazies” and the little seen South African film “Expiration” (review here). Tightly contained in the titular location, the story is brought to life by a bobbing handheld camera that makes the action come across as less staged, but taxes the visuals in short order with excessive fidgeting.
Scenes are presented effectively, although there is nary a surprise to be found in anything that takes place. Test subjects react to the infection one by one. Victims suffer attacks from the turned patients while others run and hide. And then everyone simultaneously surrenders to the side effect of questionable decision-making. Volunteers elect to not leave the facility to seek outside help despite nothing standing in their way. An uninfected patient is willingly left alone with an infected patient and tragedy predictably ensues. Splitting up to search the building seems like an agreeable suggestion. From these moments forward, “The Facility” rapidly falls apart as it loses its sense of direction.
No longer sure of its identity as a body horror film, and perhaps without a conclusive thought for a sensible ending, the movie abruptly cuts to epilogue text at the 75-minute mark, leaving the audience to wonder if the movie might have been left unfinished. “The Facility” rolls its end credits without an explanation as to the nature of the experiment or the persons responsible. White on black sentences fill in as a substitute for a resolution, but not for audience gratification.
Inconsistencies in casual details create the question of how carefully plotted the movie may have been at the outset, or if it was just a loose frame to contain the semblance of a complete film presented as an average script focused on a few bloody kills. That one character’s last name changes for no discernible reason is a minor inaccuracy. More perplexing is the end statement that the experiment produced six casualties. Of the 11 characters in the film, six were specifically shown as still breathing when the story stopped. Four are presumed dead, and one involving a serious head wound is somewhat ambiguous. Even chalking that one up as a fatality, it is still unclear if the screenplay was keeping correct track of its own death toll.
A good look and a great cast can only take any movie so far. The capable effort put forth on both sides of the lens in “The Facility” is uprooted by an idea that runs out of gas before reaching the halfway point. “The Facility” puts on the appearance of being a solid chiller, and comes close in several instances, but ultimately plays like a placebo to the substantial pills of more original, and more complete, films of a similar ilk.
Review Score: 60