Director Xavier Gens has made two other films prior to this one… and unbeknownst to me until after watching this one did I realize I’ve actually seen both. The one right before this was video game adaptation Hitman… which was relatively mediocre. But before that was a French shock-horror film called Frontier(s). And had I realized that prior to watching this movie, maybe my expectations would have been a little different, and perhaps I would have known I was getting myself into a potentially screwed up little flick. Because if this film does anything, it goes to places I never would have guessed it would have gone.
The film is about a group of people (including Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Rosanna Arquette, and Courtney B. Vance, among others) who evacuate to their apartment building’s basement bunker during a nuclear attack on New York City. Rules are immediately set up by the building’s crazy super, Mickey (Michael Biehn). Of course, things get out of control, they start turning on each other, and a Lord of the Flies-esque ruling is set up. And then it just gets… disturbing and weird.
The first half of the movie is vastly different from the second half of the movie. I would say the first half of the movie is the “Michael Biehn” section. This section is… not good. Well, the opening couple minutes is gorgeous and is probably the best part of the entire movie. But the rest… is dull, poorly written, boringly acted, and just all-around predictable and poorly made. There are plot points that are never explained and are just there for later plot points to happen (the dudes in white suits). There is no characterization, and for a movie like this (where the characters are the only thing you have going for it), that’s not a good thing. I mean, we aren’t even given stock characters to work with. They’re just shells that do what the plot asks of them. In movies such as these, you need the plot to move on because of the characters actions; the characters should not be moving because the plot forces them to. These people have no personality, do nothing because it’s what the character would do, or anything else of the sort. They just exist–so to speak–and move the movie forward because the movie needs people to exist and move itself forward. And Michael Biehn overacts like a mofo. The only character that seems to have any motivation for anything is the one played by Milo Ventimiglia. However, that all goes away quickly…
The second half is the “Milo Ventimiglia” section. While still not all that good, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting. Why? Because the characters get effin’ psychotic and Xavier Gens’ freaky French horror roots come out to play (and we all know French horror is freakin’ crazy and weird). Still, I wouldn’t say this is a horror film, per se. It’s still more of a drama/thriller. It’s moreso the visuals that can be horrific. None of these characters’ actions make any sense, which is why this half of the movie still doesn’t work for me, but it’s still so bizarre and disturbing and crazy that it keeps you interested, unlike most of the first half.
For a movie mostly taking place in a grimy underground bunker thing, there are some fantastic visuals in this movie. I mean, seriously gorgeous. As I said earlier, the opening couple minutes are stunning. There’s a “fire” scene near the end that is a visual treat. And the final scene is breathtaking. Even when it’s not pretty to look at, the film does a good job with the atmosphere. The basement/bunker is gritty and makes you feel unclean. The looks of the characters, eventually, goes right along with that.
So I guess the best I can say is that this is one you can pretty much pass on. But if you’re going to check it out, do it for one of the following reasons: It has some amazing visuals (if you can just find those 3 aforementioned scenes online, you can skip the rest and just watch those); Milo Ventimiglia certainly gives an interesting performance (as does Michael Eklund); and if you happen to like Xavier Gens and/or French horror, the second half of this movie might intrigue you. Otherwise, there’s really not that much of a reason to see it. It’s a film that had a lot of potential and just… epically missed the spot, but still ends up in some truly questionable places.