(This review originally appeared at Reel Film News on December 7, 2012.)
What do you get when you cross Die Hard with Aliens and Shaun of the Dead? Storage 24, a new sci-fi/horror film from the mind of co-writer and star Noel Clarke, promises to be exactly that. Terse and to the point, Storage 24 is an unpretentious modern horror film that doesn’t have to rely on pop culture references or jokey sight gags to get its message across. Instead, the film relies on claustrophobia and fear to provide a thick, heady atmosphere of nonstop tension.
Oh, and an enormous, toothsome alien, too.
As with other great low-budget horror films, Storage 24 manages to look like a movie with ten times its bankroll; the special effects are simple and realistic, relying on the cast to sell it, which they do very well. It’s an easy premise: a menacing alien threatens the lives of several people trapped inside a storage facility. Of course, there’s the requisite love gone bad between Charlie (Clarke) and Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), with friends on each side to support them. Charlie and Mark (The Rite’s Colin O’Donoghue) are there to pick up Charlie’s belongings from his split with Shelley; Chris (Jamie Thomas King) and Nikki (Laura Haddock) are there to help Shelly with the same task. Arriving unexpectedly simultaneously, we get a glimpse into their turbulent former relationship before all hell breaks loose – a government plane has crashed carrying classified containers… and one of those containers is right next to the storage facility. The container is now empty, slathered in a white, saliva-like substance; a few growls and implied attacks later, we find out exactly what we’re dealing with, and it sure as hell isn’t E.T. Amidst the cool blues and the stark yellows of the landscape of the storage unit, with no leader and no weapons, these folks have to find a way to survive, with the alien just a harrowing step behind them for the film’s duration.
The thing I love about Storage 24 is that it is a no-frills, entirely straightforward movie. There aren’t that many forehead-slapping, “Oh, God, why are you doing that?!” moments, and the drama is played up without any embellishments or reality show-like histrionics. Clarke and company never overact their circumstances, playing perfectly to each situation. The monster is terrifying (it’s like a cross between Xtro, the Reapers from Blade II, and the creatures from Cowboys and Aliens), and although we don’t get to see too much of it, we see enough of it to know that it’s not something you want to run into in a dark hallway. Director Johannes Roberts has spared us from dull filler and rewards the viewer with a tight, lean film that doesn’t overstay its welcome; Roberts hits all the marks and ekes out a perfectly entertaining Saturday afternoon B-movie without being too heavy-handed or ridiculous.
Noel Clarke, best known to US audiences as Mickey Smith from the first two season of the rejuvenated “Doctor Who” BBC series, has turned into a must-see talent both in front of and behind the camera. His previous writing efforts, Kidulthood, its sequel Adulthood, and 188.8.131.52. have all offered a harsh, realistic look at inner-city London life. With Storage 24, he’s gone straight up the gut to give us a break from all the self-referential, wink-and-a-nod comedy-horrors; he directs that realism to the fantasy genre, where Storage 24 will install itself as a perfectly serviceable entry.
Storage 24 is now available on Amazon.com.