Directed by: Neil Marshall
Distributed by: RLJ Entertainment
Written by Nick McCann
In the last couple decades, British filmmaker Neil Marshall has proven himself to be one of the more reliable cult movie directors. His debut “Dog Soldiers” is a tight-knit blast of action horror while “The Descent” hits hard with claustrophobia and emotion. Not all his movies are perfect but the man has developed his own style and stamped it into his work. His latest looks to return to his roots of man-on-creature action. But while fine enough, it does have you wishing for his earlier work.
“The Lair” hits the ground running, going full bore with a campy conspiracy angle set against a real-life geopolitical event. What starts off as standard storytelling fare does get more interesting as it goes along. For the better, in that case, because there isn’t much new material as far as creature features go. We’ve seen a lot of these kinds of elements done better elsewhere, namely Marshall’s own “Dog Soldiers.” Nevertheless, the plot moves at a competent pace and becomes amusing due to how they weave in certain historical events.
It also falls flat with the characters. While not devoid of occasional endearment, no one develops anything beyond a typical quirk to quickly identify them. Yet another case of the “Aliens” treatment that has seldom worked since that movie came to be. Despite that, the actors are trying their best and committing to the script. Charlotte Kirk and Jonathan Howard definitely get the most time to develop and the rest are just shy of being lambs for slaughter. I will say though that Kibong Tanji makes for an insufferable presence, mostly from how she’s written. Jaime Bamber on the other hand is a walking cliche of a platoon leader, complete with a hokey southern accent and eye patch. Even for this forgiving reviewer, I say far more effort could’ve been put into his character.
When it comes to the monsters, there is enjoyment to be had. The actual creatures don’t particularly stand out apart from some tentacles and claws. Yet they still reflect a fine enough threat to the characters and have their moments. “The Lair” offers you your fill of action sequences. That and the occasional gunfight with the Taliban shake it up from time to time.
The special effects are nicely done with solid monster suits and tons of gore. Yeah, there’s some CGI blood but often you are rewarded with a bloody mess of practical prosthetics. Speaking of the CGI, it’s occasionally noticeable and clearly not fully affordable. An early action sequence had me thinking I had rented a “Top Gun: Maverick” bootleg for a moment.
While nice to see a dependable filmmaker going back to what he knows best, “The Lair” ends up being only okay. There’s plenty of action, blood and sometimes amusing ideas present so it’s not a complete waste. However, it’s mostly a reminder that Marshall has done better in similar scenarios. In case you couldn’t tell, “Dog Soldiers” is a better bet in terms of soldiers vs creatures action horror. Not to mention other more famous creature offerings out there.
“The Lair” Trailer