|Is it me or is there a big hole in this plot?|
I don’t like writing negative reviews. I really don’t. Getting a film made (especially in Britain) is such a Herculean task that anyone who succeeds should be proclaimed a national hero. But sometimes films simply aren’t worth the effort. Sometimes the only rational thought when fleeing from the cinema auditorium is: Well, that’s seven quid I’ll never get back.
Sometimes, even a critic like me, the most loathsome of parasites infesting the gut of the entertainment industry, will be moved to speak out in the interests of my fellow human animal. Sometimes I have to issue dire warnings. I know no one will listen, but still I must do what I can. If I save just one unwary soul, then my 87 minutes of suffering will not have been in vain.
Storage 24 is just The Old Dark House For Beginners. ‘The Old Dark House’, in case you don’t recognise the phrase, is a very simple, very familiar film-making formula: First you gather together a group of individuals in a claustrophobic location from which they can’t escape; Then you kill them off one by one. It’s the root source of most stalk ’n’ slash films and, as such, you’ve seen it re-worked a thousand times. The only remaining interest in this over-familiar formula lies in finding new locations, creating sympathetic characters and killing them in crowd-pleasingly gruesome ways.
After thirty interminable years of watching these films straining against the leash of this tightly-constrained genre, twisting it, playing with it or just capitulating to it … I have lost the ability to find these films even remotely engaging. The only way a film-maker can engage my interest in this hoary old cliché is by undermining it, as Scream (1996) did (before it too became a worn-out, unwelcome embarrassment of a franchise) or, more recently, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010) and Cabin in the Woods (2012).
See, I really don’t give a shit what you did last summer. I spit on your lazy, prurient, right-wing agenda and your real final destination is my arse.
|So, if the Token Black Guy is the hero and both the women are Blonde ... I guess that means the Old Wise Guy's gotta die first. Bugger.|
All of which is by-way of my explaining that I can’t watch Storage 24 the way it’s target audience is expected to watch it. I’m not part of the 16-24 urban demographic that forms Noel Clarke’s fan-base. I don’t have the careless amorality of the teenage horror-movie-nut. (In all honesty, I didn’t when I was one myself, but that’s a different story). Therefore, I can only watch this film with eyes that have seen it all done so many times before, so much better; because I’m not a beginner.
The film is based on a script written by Clarke, is produced by him and, of course, stars him. Clarke is something of a one-man film industry. Blessed by looking a good ten years younger than he actually is (37), he radiates both intelligence and emotion and this has made him stand out among his contemporary young black actors. But, almost from the beginning, he has not been satisfied with merely performing other writers’ lines. In 2005 he arrived in the public consciousness in the re-launched Doctor Who TV show, (as Rose’ long-suffering boyfriend, Mickey) whilst, at the same time, writing his first feature film, Kidulthood. This would be released a year later. Two years after that, he wrote, directed and starred in its sequel, Adulthood, and was awarded the BAFTA for ‘Rising Star’.
This year, Storage 24 is just one of three films he has written and acted in. Clarke is established. He will never be out of work because he is too versatile and is too much in control of his career. Also, this movie notwithstanding, he’s too good. I think I can understand why he may have decided to make a horror film now. Horrors are cheap to make, enjoy an unwaveringly loyal audience and have long shelf-lives. When his 16-24s have forgotten all about Kidulthood and 4,3,2,1 (his 2010 all-girl heist movie), they will still be renting Storage 24, or tuning in for it on late-night TV. So, from a business point of view, it’s a good move, just not a good movie. If this had been his first film, I fear it would be his last.
|So, if I make to the end of this tunnel ... I stand a good chance of getting out of this movie with my reputation intact? Worth a try.|
The credits tell us that the story was by Clarke, then three other people have written the script. I really struggle to see why it took four people to write this … unless they were gathered around a table arguing over which scenes from Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) they were going to steal. Ultimately they decided: All of them.
The location here is not a gothic cathedral-like oil tanker floating through space … It’s a cold, grey storage facility in London. It’s about as photogenic as a neon-lit corridor with grey, unpainted walls which, by strange coincidence, is exactly what it is. I would say it is a warren of corridors … But it’s clearly just one corridor shot from several different directions to give the (not terribly convincing) impression of a labyrinth. As locations go, it is about as bland and unattractive as the people who find themselves trapped within it.
Clarke plays Charlie who is, frankly, a whinging bitch. No wonder his girlfriend, Shelley, has given him the elbow. To his credit, Clarke takes the central role well, making Charlie really unlikeable in the early scenes and a convincing if unwilling leader in the later ones. He is even responsible for the films scarce flashes of humour. Why is he in the titular storage warehouse? Well, Shelley has apparently dumped all of their possessions there, which results in her and Charlie being there at the same time. Or something. This contrivance to get them together isn’t dwelt upon, but together they are, sulky Charlie and obnoxious Shelley along with her annoying and eminently killable friends.
Charlie’s friend, Mark (Colin O'Donoghue) roams through this all with casual ease, reminding me of no-one so much as Michael Fassbender (although that may have been simply his accent). Based on this evidence, I suspect that Mr. O’Donoghue may enjoy a good career playing roles the now stratospherically-successful Fassbender turns down or is too expensive for!
|What's the use of worrying ... We know who's going to die ...|
So anyway, a ‘plane’ has crashed off-screen and a monster from its cargo hold is let loose in the storage facility and the wiring has fused so the doors won’t open and the lights keep going off. Classic Dark House type stuff, really. But the location is so visually dull and the characters so irritating (oh look, now that one is going wandering off by themselves … in the dark) that you very quickly find yourself rooting for the monster in the hope that it will simply kill them all and bring the damn film to an early end.
But even that brings with it problems, because every moment of so-called suspense is undermined by a) lasting far, far, far too long and b) containing endlessly repetitive close-ups of rolling, staring eyeballs and c) being ripped raw and bleeding from Alien or Aliens (with one inevitable moment lifted from Jaws). Literally every stalk and slash scene in here is about as familiar and as welcome as an opera-singing insurance salesman. Every plot contrivance is telegraphed ages in advance ("You must be the only person in the world who still uses matches") even by overly-familiar-horribly-derivative-no-mobile-phone-signal horror-movie standards.
They’ve spent some money on their monster, mind … Mixing CGI with practical effects. Problem is, when you see it, it looks like two parts alien Prawn to one-part Brundlefly. As with every other element of this movie, it’s just too bloody familiar.
|I made it ... I'm out!|
Sadly, the one or two gooey on-screen deaths it is responsible for will, I suspect, be enough to give this film an eager and enthusiastic audience of horror film newbies. But, if you’ve ever seen a good stalk ’n’ slash or Old Dark House movie before, you’ve as good as already seen this one, so keep your money in your pocket.
So few films are made in Britain these days that is little shy of a crime when someone successfully gets one made and it adds nothing to the sum total of knowledge or entertainment in the world.
Storage 24 lacks pace, focus, motivation, tension and internal logic but, other than that, it’s predictable, charmless and contrived. And ugly. And boring.