the lair | neil marshall | charlotte kirk | jonathan howard | jamie bamber | military | monster | monsters | creature | creatures | creature feature | alien | aliens | action | united kingdom | united states | hungary | hadi khanjanpour | leon ockenden | mark strepan
Film: The Lair
Director: Neil Marshall
Writers: Charlotte Kirk and Neil Marshall
Starring: Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard and Jamie Bamber
This is a movie that caught my attention when I was looking at horror releases for 2023 on Shudder. What I didn’t realize until I decided to watch this was that it was directed and co-written by Neil Marshall. He’s done good work with Dog Soldiers and The Descent. He’s also done things that aren’t so good but fun with Doomsday. I was curious what we’d get here.
Synopsis: when Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) is shot down over Afghanistan, she finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where deadly man-made biological weapons are awakened.
There was part of the synopsis that I’m going to leave out as it is a spoiler. We learn at the beginning of this that back in 2017 the US government dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. These are the events that lead up to that incident.
Lt. Kate Sinclair is flying a mission with WSO Terry Johnson (Alex Morgan). They’re shot down by a group of insurgences. Kate makes it to a bunker as the synopsis says where she seeks refuge. She is followed inside. Through this cat and mouse, they accidentally release these creatures. It wipes out most of the men who are after her. She is then chased back out.
Lucky for her, she encounters a group of US soldiers that are stationed out this way. Sgt. Tom Hook (Jonathan Howard) along with Corp. Jade Lafayette (Kibong Tanji) and others. She is taken back to their base. Kabir Abdul Rahimi (Hadi Khanjanpour) is as well. Both are treated for wounds and they tell their story to Major Roy Finch (Jamie Bamber) who is in charge. There is a legend in these parts, as Kabir was raised here, about secret experiments in a Russian base. This could be the reason that the Soviets invaded back in the day.
Whatever these things are in the bunker are now unleashed and they’re not just mindless creatures attacking at night. They are getting smarter and that much more deadly.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap here as I think that about sums up what we are getting here. This also introduces the major characters here. What I should point out though is that we get a lot of soldiers. When I saw this, I knew that they are there for cannon fodder. We have a core group that we follow, but this movie knows what it is doing and wants to give you kills. I don’t mind that though.
Where I should start then with delving in a bit deeper is that Marshall is an odd filmmaker to me. It appears that he loves taking military people, who have more training than you basic person, then pitting them up against something stronger. I understand the tension this builds for sure. He did this in Dog Soldiers with werewolves. I also get vibes of Doomsday, but this one is more grounded.
Then going from there, I didn’t realize until sitting down and gathering my thoughts that Kirk, who stars in this, is also the co-writer. That is an interesting touch. I found it noteworthy that we have a British pilot here. There is also a roaming group of British soldiers, led by Sgt. Oswald Jones (Leon Ockenden), that have fallen in line with our soldiers and operate out of the base. I’m not sure how often this happens in real life, but I liked that touch as well. Usually movies like this would focus on American soldiers only and the blending in with the Brits adds another element.
Next should be the creatures, their look and the effects. I liked what we got here. They look humanoid. This does explain a bit more of their origins, but I didn’t want to spoil that. What they remind me of are lickers from Resident Evil. They even have odd tentacles that come out. This factors in with something a bit different with what they’re used for. I thought that the effects on them looked good. I’d guess it is practical for parts and CGI for the rest. There is bad CGI in this movie. I should point that out. Not enough to ruin things though. On the whole, this goes brutal at times which I appreciate.
I think then I’ll take this to the acting. It is fine across the board. Kirk is good as our lead. She’s a good soldiers and attractive so that helps. I liked Howard as this main soldier from the US. Bamber is interesting with things that he’s hiding. I do come to expect that when governments are involved. Aside from that, I’d say the rest of the soldiers are good on both sides. I also thought those playing the creatures were solid.
The only other things to go into are with the filmmaking. I’ve said what I had to on the effects, but I should credit the cinematography as well. It does quick shots of the monsters so we don’t linger too long to critique them. That is strategic. This is shot well overall so that is a plus. Other than that, I thought the soundtrack was fine. It fit for what they needed with building the atmosphere. The sound design is also good with the creatures screeching. That adds a creepy element for sure. When Kate is hiding, they do good things with it there to build tension.
In conclusion, this one is fun. We have a classic story of soldiers vs. a creature that is bigger, faster and stronger than them. I think that we have decent enough characters and the acting is fine. What is on show here though are the monsters themselves. I like the look. There is an interesting backstory with them. I even like incorporating real history to help strengthen it. This isn’t great though. Don’t come in expecting a lot. This is another Marshall film that if you come into and just enjoy it for what it is, you could do worse.
My Rating: 6 out of 10