Reviews: claustrophobic horror in It Lives

Published On July 24, 2018 | By | Film TV & Theatre, Reviews

It Lives (aka Twenty-Twenty Four),
Directed by Richard Mundy,
Starring Andrew Kinsler, Peter McCrohon,
Second Sight

Roy (Andrew Kinsler) is a scientist, although sometimes in his unusual job he feels less like a qualified scientist and more like a hi-tech janitor. Roy’s job? Maintaining the systems in a deep subterranean bunker, a technological refuge for the super-rich to escape to in case of global catastrophe, societal meltdown or any other huge disaster, a place for the 1% to ride out the End Days. Roy is expected to ensure the smooth running of the refuge – to keep it prepared for occupation at a moment’s notice, and if the worst happens, when the rich guests arrive to hide away from the unfolding disaster, he’s meant to just hand over the keys and head back upstairs to the dying world above. He’s just there to make sure it is ready, he doesn’t actually have a place in it should the disaster strike.

And until, or if, that day arrives, Roy is down there day after day, week after week, almost entirely alone, save for Arthur, the AI system for the bunker, and Arthur doesn’t even speak, just communicates by messages on the screens, and the very infrequent video calls from a supervisor on the surface. That’s it, just Roy working away deep underground, walking the tunnels, checking the control rooms, vents, power machinery. Day after day, without even a window to look out of. Even without the thought of an imminent disaster on the surface that threatens all humanity this is a scenario that is bound to slowly undermine the psyche of any person after a while.

And then it seems the worst has happened, his supervisor alerts him to prepare everything, then… Then nothing. No communications with the surface, and Arthur is detecting high levels of radiation. Has there been a nuclear attack? One so swift none of those who paid to hide in the bunker made it there in time? Arthur is even more alone than before, now he doesn’t have the possibility of talking to anyone on the surface, or of anyone joining him. And then he starts hearing noises, thinking he is detecting movement behind panels, vents… Is someone somehow down here with him. Or something?? And does Arthur know more than it lets on? He seems programmed to care for Roy, but how much can Roy trust the AI?

To go any further would be to risk spoilers, but suffice to say Mundy takes this scenario and uses it to ratchet up the tension to the max as Roy’s lonely, isolated but fairly orderly world starts to disintegrate. Is he really hearing something behind the panels of the bunker and if so, what? Or is it his imagination, his mind overwhelmed by months of isolation followed by disaster? Or is it a clever simulation by the company to do a psychological study on him, understand the “last man on Earth” syndrome?

It Lives obviously doesn’t have a huge budget, but it doesn’t need it, it relies on steadily building atmosphere and tension, the restrictions of the underground bunker helping in this hugely, giving it the feel sometimes of a WWII submarine film when the sailors are trapped on the bottom, wondering if death lurks just beyond the steel walls, except of course they at least had company… An intriguing, atmospheric slice of science fiction-horror.

It Lives is released by Second Sight on DVD from August 6th

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