Dir. Neil Marshall (2022)
An American military unit, who has recently added a British aviator to their mix, stumbles across an underground bunker with alien-human hybrids that are out for blood.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Opening with a pre-title card that explains “the events we are about to see,” The Lair tells the story of military folks in Afghanistan who come across a bunker with some terrible, no-good, very bad creatures inside. Having just checked out director Neil Marshall’s seminal Dog Soldiers for the first time (I know, I know) during Halloween, I was excited to see another creature feature (though a decidedly less lycanthropic one) newly streaming on Shudder. The film falls squarely into Marshall’s bread-and-butter zone, having also previously helmed The Descent 1 &2 as well, and The Lair brings us right back to the realm of claustrophobic monster movie with some great creature effects and an action/horror bent.
Lead actress Charlotte Kirk, who co-wrote the film with her husband Marshall, does a great job as Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair (which is pronounced leftenant, of course), and while some of the acting is wooden, most of it works just fine for the film. There are a couple of jarringly bad accents that threatened to take me out of the film for a bit, and I mean shockingly bad. You’d think after all the traveling Marshall has done with his films that he’d have at least met someone from the American South, but apparently that is not at all the case. There are some great scenes of violence sprinkled throughout the movie, but The Lair largely feels like a film that ran out of budget: some of the special effects, especially towards the end of the film, are laughably bad, and the script is lackluster at the best of times and downright putrid at the worst. I don’t know if this one needed a few more rewrites or what, and I certainly do not claim to be the arbiter of what makes a good screenplay, but much like the legendary quote from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it. This was not it.
It's a shame that Marshall has fallen off from what was clearly the makings of a legendary career. In different hands, or perhaps an earlier version of his own, this could’ve been a downright badass film. Unfortunately, this feels more like a vanity project for Kirk than anything else, which is ironic because I didn’t even know who she was before this and now I just don’t really care. All of these criticisms, however, do not in any way mean that the film isn’t worth a watch. There are some really great scenes within, especially during the creatures’ initial raid on the base. There are some great face-removing effects and some fantastic creature effects as well. There’s a bit of an underlying plot about the bunker being known beforehand by the government, but no one really seems to care about that once the chips are down and it’s kill or be killed. Which is understandable from the characters, I guess, but they never really try to resolve that plot point either.
All in all, this one is more miss than hit. Marshall is still clearly talented, and perhaps does more with what he’s given in this one than other, less-talented filmmakers could’ve done. He would do well to avoid working with his spouse in the future though, even if she is indeed talented in her own right. A film that seemed to have the promise of being a cross between Dog Soldiers and The Descent instead becomes an exercise in tedium, delivering a film that is a disappointment to both of Marshall’s previous films. Of course, as with any great filmmaker, we will keep buying tickets and lining up to watch. It takes a lot more than one stinker to kill a horror fan’s interest.
Who this movie is for: Monster movie fans, British horror lovers, Accent classes looking for the Goofus example
Bottom line: This film should’ve been another Dog Soldiers but unfortunately winds up more as an Predator knockoff than anything. This one was a disappointment to say the least, but it’s still got some fantastic moments of carnage that are well worth a watch. If you love monster movies, especially the b-fare that most of us grew up with, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. It may get more unintended laughs than screams, but that’s not always a bad thing either. It’s streaming now on Shudder, so check it out.