The latest genre film from the UK, Storage 24, makes its theatrical debut today! But is it an entertaining low-budget experience or is the "Aliens in a storage facility" theme too predictable for its own good? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Directed by: Johannes Roberts Written by: Noel Clarke, Davie Fairbanks, Marc Small
Starring: Noel Clarke - Charlie Colin O'Donoghue - Mark Antonia Campbell-Hughes - Shelley Laura Haddock - Nikki Jamie Thomas King - Chris Alex Price - Jake Ned Dennehy - David Geoff Bell - Bob Ruth Gemmell - Ruth Davie Fairbanks - Greg Amy Pemberton - Lucy
Running Time: 87 minutes
Rated R for creature violence, gore and language
British science fiction and horror films are currently on the rise among genre fans. From the Hammer Horror's return from the dead via films like The Woman in Black and well-received efforts like Attack of the Block, Heartless and Kill List, audiences are finding more and more genre films from the United Kingdom worth checking out. With American horror having one of its worst years in a long time in 2012, perhaps that isn't surprising. This year will continue that trend as Hammer continues their output with The Quiet Ones and Kill List director Ben Wheatley's Sightseers looks to see a North American release; in the meantime we have Storage 24. Directed by UK horror vet Johannes Roberts, the film hits theaters tomorrow after debuting in VOD format.
The film stars Clark and O'Donoghue as Charlie and Mark, two best friends living in London. Charlie is going through a messy break-up with his longtime girlfriend Shelly (Campbell-Hughes), for reasons which he can't understand and Mark's insistence that he let it go isn't exactly helping him. The two friends make their way to a storage facility where the ex-couple's things are so that Charlie can get his belongings, only to find that Shelley is there as well, along with her friends Nikki (Haddock) and Chris (King). Awkwardness ensues.
Unfortunately for them, awkwardness isn't the only thing threatening their comfort level. A military plane has crashed near the facility and something that was serving as the plane's cargo has managed to escape its cage. That something gets into the facility before the gates go down, trapping the quintet in. With little more than a nervous employee of the storage company (Price), an eccentric old coot who is living in the place (Dennehy) and whatever they can find in the various lockers to help them, it is up to the five to weather their discomfort with each other--as well as some difficult revelations--if they're going to survive.
Storage 24 was written by Noel Clarke, who plays the lead role of Charlie and serves as producer as well. Most people who recognize him will do so as Mickey Smith in the first four seasons of the new Doctor Who; many more will recognize him soon, as he is set to play an unspecified role in this summer's Star Trek Into Darkness. Smith came up with the idea after he was in a similar storage facility and realized what a good setting it would be for a thriller or horror film. Clarke co-wrote the script with Davie Fairbanks, Marc Small, both of whom he has worked with before. The story is simple and straight-forward; there are not a whole lot of twists and turns here and horror fans will likely be able to predict what is going to happen here and several tropes of the horror genre come into play. The plot works better than you might expect from a relatively low-budget affair like this thanks to two factors. The first is that the broken relationship dynamic lets the tension between the characters make more sense than your average horror flick; the film doesn't need the meathead jock's machismo to force conflict between the characters. The set-up to this relationship divide borders on tedious for a moment but it pays off in a better flow of dialogue between the characters later.
The other thing that helps is the film's ability to acknowledge the ridiculousness of the material. For example, in a dumber version of this script, you may expect the heroes to find a cadre of weapons left by some drug dealer in one of the storage lockers. Not so here; Clarke and company decide instead to arm the heroes with chintzy made-in-Taiwan style animatronic dogs and cheap, "As Seen on TV" knives. Their big find is a collection of bottle rockets. Not only does that make a hell of a lot more sense than what a bigger-budget film might stretch for, it gives some of the scenes a real sense of fun. The scene in which Charlie and Matt go hunting for such weapons has a real sense of important stakes to it and yet doesn't fail to deliver laughs as they stumble upon sex toys and holiday garland. This sense of the absurd isn't over-the-top comedy; it is subtle and yet no less funny and it pops up in several different parts of the film, right down to the old-timer living in his storage locker to hide from and spite his ex-wife.
The performances are solid from top to bottom. Clark and O'Donoghue have a good chemistry and work off each other well; Clarke makes a sympathetic hero and O'Donoghue's Mark plays into the story exactly as needed. Ned Dennehy is a highlight of the film as the elderly David while Campbell-Hughes, Haddock and King are all fine in their roles. The actors are working against some aspects of the script; the characters make a lot of the kinds of poor decisions you expect in a film like this but you never find yourself deriding any of them or particularly cheering for their deaths. Director Johannes Roberts is no stranger to the horror genre, with films like Forest of the Damned and F on his resume, and he does a good job of making the storage unit setting feel claustrophobic and foreboding. Roberts wrings as much tension as possible out of the proceedings but doesn't have a problem with stepping back from time to time in order to give the film's energy an ebb and flow.
To be clear here, few people would dare call Storage 24 a truly terrifying film; it simply follows the standard Alien concept too closely to be considered a great sci-fi horror film. The monster is impressively nasty-looking but a bit low-budget and while it grows on you, the first full reveal is a bit lacking. The gore in the film should satisfy horror hounds though and Roberts does a good job of utilizing the creature in limited doses whenever possible, to the film's betterment. Like with many of these films, the monster is almost more of an excuse to test characters and show where they lean on the morality scale and in that, it is a success.
The 411: Ultimately, Storage 24 works best when it acknowledges its absurdity. The film certainly does have its high points, but it is important to note that it is a film of modest aims and thus modest successes. Noel Clarke, Colin O'Donoghue and the rest of the cast work ably within the material and director Johannes Roberts uses the claustrophobic setting to great effect, while the script from Clarke, Davie Fairbanks and Marc Small has a sense of humor and fun about it that is not immediately apparent. This is by no means an all-time sci-fi horror classic but it is more entertaining than you might expect and worth checking out.