A group of people head for a secluded clinic to take part in a medical trial, with the promise that if they stay for two weeks, they’ll get £2,000. After being introduced they’re taken off at hourly intervals to be given the drug, Pro9, and are then left to get to know one another.
That night the side-effects turn out to be far more dramatic than expected. The first of the guinea pigs to be given the drug is found doubled-over in pain and is taken off by the medics. Some time later, a second participant starts screaming. It soon becomes clear that the drug has extreme side-effects, which essentially turn people into unconscious psycho-killers, who are more than willing to inflict violence on those who get in the way. As the other patients realise escape is going to be difficult, they also know that everyone who’s been given the drug is potentially going to go off their rocker too, and the only reason more haven’t already turned is due to the hour-long gaps between the administrations of the first dose.
This micro-budget British horror has a great idea at its core that could have resulted in a tense, claustrophobic thrill ride, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work and the results are pretty mediocre. The Facility gives the impression that the people behind the movie are well aware of what people say makes for a good horror movie, but haven’t quite understood how to translate that to the screen.
For example, it’s usually best if a horror film lets you get to know the characters. The Facility certainly spends a lot of time early on trying to do that, but it mainly does it through bland dialogue (presumably to suggest a sense of reality) and a mix of everyman characters who are fairly interchangeable. Even those characters who do stand-out from the crowd essentially have one-note personalities.
Likewise, many say there’s more power in what you don’t see in a horror flick than what’s on-screen, but The Facility’s tendency to cut away whenever anything horrible is about to happen is both over-used and also doesn’t fully work because we often don’t quite know what we’re supposed to be imagining.
That said, it’s a passable 80 minutes and if you don’t demand too much from your horror movies, it makes for a decent watch. It’s largely saved by the fact that the basic idea is really good, and there are a few moments where the tension you’d hope for from a film like this emerges. It’s just a shame it’s difficult to really care about what’s happening to the people, and also that when they inevitably start arguing amongst themselves, you’re more likely to start wishing that someone will quickly kill them rather than hoping they escape.
Ultimately, I’d like to see what writer/director Ian Clark does next, as he has talent and must have learned a lot from making this, his feature debut. Unfortunately The Facility itself is a great idea that doesn’t quite work.
Overall Verdict: The Facility is based on a really good idea, but bland characters and a tendency to underplay things to the point things get a tiny bit confusing undermine what would have been a great little movie.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac