Saturday 28 January 2023

Shudder Saturday: The Lair (2022)

Some people, SOME, have been saying that The Lair is a return to form for writer-director Neil Marshall. They are becoming an even smaller minority, but they're around. Somewhere. They're also being far too kind to a film that, rather than reminding you of how good Marshall can be, actually serves to remind you how far away he has moved from his best work.

Charlotte Kirk, who also co-wrote the movie with Marshall, stars as a pilot, Kate Sinclair, shot down over Afghanistan. She ends up encountering some hostile enemies, to be expected, but also discovers something else aiming to cause her harm. Eventually in the company of other military allies, Kate has to convince them of what she saw, and everyone has to figure out how to survive, and destroy, the monsters on the prowl.

Marshall may be very happy with the work he gets to do now, movies in which he can work with actress/co-writer/partner Kirk, but I cannot help thinking that he has lost his way, and that is sadly even more obvious in The Lair than it was in his previous film, The Reckoning. I don't think that Kirk helps him in the writing department, and she's certainly not a good enough actress to make up for the weaknesses in the script (compare any part of her performance to the many other women that Marshall has worked with and it will highlight how poor she is).

I could barely work up the energy to fully review this, it was so surprisingly dull throughout, but people should know what they're getting into. The creature design isn't bad, I guess, but nothing else works here. Action beats aren't exciting, none of the characters are given any personality (which leaves the other cast members hung out to dry), and there's no sense of anything that should be here: no tension, no real sense of place, no oppressive atmosphere, not even good banter between the soldiers.

As already mentioned, and I don't want to seem mean about it, Kirk isn't great in the lead role. Sadly, the rest of the cast pitch their performance in line with the lead/what Marshall wants. Jonathan Howard, Jamie Bamber, Leon Ockenden, and many others do poor work. Hadi Khanjanpour is the only person who almost rises above the material. Almost.

I remember one good gore gag. There were maybe one or two more, it's strange how my brain is already trying to erase this from my memory after just watching it last night, but it's hard to appreciate any fleeting highlight under the cumulative weight of one bad moment after another. And there's no silver lining on this cloud. Nothing works - score, cinematography, production design, etc - and the whole thing feels cheap and unworthy of Marshall's considerable talent. IF he has managed to hold on to some of his considerable talent.

I am happy that Marshall and Kirk are very happy together. I would be a lot happier if they could maintain that happiness without making movies together. 


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