The Lair, Director Neil Marshall’s latest genre piece, had the double honour of opening and receiving its world premiere at the 22nd annual FrightFest in London, England. Before the screening, Marshall stated that the movie “had a lot more in keeping with my earlier films like Dog Soldiers and The Descent”. The premise certainly backs this up - on paper it seems to capture the claustrophobia of The Descent and the action and siege environment of Dog Soldiers, but does it deliver a similar result?
The story focuses on Captain Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk), a pilot who is shot down during her final combat mission in Afghanistan. She is ambushed by insurgents but manages to fend them off long enough to take shelter in a large underground bunker. The insurgents pursue Sinclair down under ground, but they find more than the lone RAF pilot there. They find a number of creatures in stasis, and one is accidentally released when its tube is destroyed during gunfire. The creature - which resembles Venom, complete with elongated tongue, sharp teeth and superior speed and agility - awakes and quickly makes short and bloody work of the insurgents, whilst Sinclair manages to escape.
She is saved by patrolling U.S. service personnel and taken back to their outpost, which is in the midst of being decommissioned. There she discovers that the several remaining soldiers are at the base as a punishment, including its leader, Major Roy Finch (Jamie Bamber). She finds some allies among the visiting British unit, but Sinclair’s story isn’t believed and she is treated with scepticism until night falls and the depleted outpost is besieged by more of the creatures.
In a bid to defeat the them, the squadron - with the help of the insurgent’s driver – try to find out more about their enemy and discover that they may have more in common with them than they realised. The group must decide if they should wait to be hunted or go on the attack as they sift through the murky past of Soviet black sites, aliens and biological weapons.
The Lair has an original, ambitious and intriguing plot, and at one point it even re-writes history in regards to the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. However, the limited budget hinders it from reaching its full potential. It is further hampered by a mediocre script, poor accents and a lead character that isn’t quite compelling enough – the story starts with flashbacks of Sinclair’s family life and the trauma they may have suffered, but this isn’t really explored any further.
The creature effects look impressive, creepy and sinister when kept in the confines of the underground bunker, but when shown in daylight they look a little more like people in suits. The make-up and visual effects employed for each of the deaths is very good and different characters are killed off in a variety of ways – there is no shortage of original and gruesome deaths. The action sequences are fast-paced and contain everything you want to see in a stand-up fight between the military and alien creatures. The battle scenes have a relentless video-game quality about them and Marshall has done well to let the action flow.
The dynamic of the group is defined by the back-and-forth banter between the British and American military personnel and the dialogue is peppered with one-liners and quips, which at times don’t quite land. The characters don’t evolve or change a great deal when faced with various challenges – they effectively point and shoot - and most problems are solved with a gung-ho attitude. This isn’t a bad thing – semi-automatic weapons can solve a lot of problems, especially when you’re under attack from creatures that can punch a hole in your face.
The Lair makes a decent attempt to accentuate the positives in regards to effects and action despite being rough around the edges, and even though it may not stand the test of time compared to other action/sci-fi/horror films like Starship Troopers, Aliens or Predator, it has just enough to keep your interest.
Movie Score: 2.5/5