Review: The Lair

Fun but seriously goofy, ‘The Lair’ sees Neil Marshall dig deep for influences within his own filmography to unleash some more hellish monster mayhem, this time upon an unsuspecting US marine unit in Afghanistan.

Right from the opening of this movie, a brief sequence of aerial combat high in the skies above Afghanistan the film sets out its stall as an action orientated horror, and from then on in, the film, to its merit, doesn’t really let up from this perspective, even more so than say ‘Dog Soldiers’.

The plot, well… basically, after that opener, a British pilot is shot down and seeks refuge from the Taliban in an old Russian facility. Once inside she discovers an eerie lab, littered with monsters in stasis containers which burst to life once roused from their slumber by the invading forces in pursuit of the RAF pilot. Escaping with her life, she leaves the bunker, finding refuge in a ramshackle US Marine outpost. She was, however, not alone…

‘The Lair’ is very much B-movie creature feature mayhem, for better and for worse. If ‘The Decent’ – a masterpiece in my opinion – found success in strong characterisation, a truly chilling monster and a claustrophobic environment which was as equally terrifying as the movies antagonist, this movie attempts to carve an identity by revelling in the exact opposite.

The Lair goes hard on all the clichés.

The marine team, affectionately know as the ‘Dirty Dozen’, are typical monster fodder, standing out more so from some very questionable accents than for their backstories. The monsters – man in a suit type beasts which in some shots actually look quite cool, and in others, distinctly not – the CGI ‘probe’ parts standing out significantly as the later. The token Afgan defector fighting for honour, and quite possibly the worst one liner’s put to film – “batter up you son of a bitch”, one guy proclaims as he needlessly engages one of the beasts using the wall mounted baseball bat telegraphed only a few scenes prior which his heavily armed team stand watching, whilst later in the movie one character sums up a particularly gruelling assault: “That was some fucked up shit…” deep.

And to me this was all part of the charm… even if, at times, I wasn’t sure the cast/characters were really up to speed on the tone of the movie their efforts culminated in.  

 This movie is literally genre fodder for the sake of it. As if self-aware that the weak scripting and inconsistent performances threaten to derail any enjoyment that can be found in the movies standard 90 minute run time, the film just goes all out on the relentless action.

And that’s the clincher.

This film packs a lot of loud, brash and gratuitous action and some praiseworthy practical gore effects in and around the snippets of dialogue and exposition there is simply not enough time to really be offended by the films lacking ‘human’ elements. Budget wise, this was clearly not high, but it doesn’t stop the 50 cal. gun fights, RPG explosions, grenade vs. body detonations, jaws ripped off., heads removed and face fisting. There’s a live autopsy, there’s the aforementioned CGI mind probe and a good deal of general ‘peek-a-boo’ jump scares thrown in for good measure. These scenes are always cool to watch and the choreography really keep things moving despite the limited scope for innovation.

There just isn’t enough let up for the viewer to become disengaged! – so long of course if you didn’t switch on expecting nuance or subtly.

Overall, I’d say, for fans of the ‘Dog Soldiers’ iteration of Neil Marshall, then this movie is a goer. I’m honestly not sure what was going on with the performances at times, and there’s always the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the line when a film is intentionally ‘bad’ and goofy, but for all in monster madness and B-Movie fayre ‘The Lair’ has a good 90 minutes of condensed carnage!

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