Director Neil Marshall delivered one of the best monster movies of the past 20 years with “The Descent.”
Marshall’s career has been one slow, steady decline ever since.
It’s hard to see him sinking any lower than “The Lair.”
A pathetic stitch job of his directorial debut, “Dog Soldiers,” and “Aliens,“ “The Lair” is so awful it might re-emerge as a cult classic.
Atrocious dialogue. Awful accents. Characters so interchangeable even the stars should have worn name tags on set. The only saving grace? No gratuitous plea for a sequel in the waning moments.
Charlotte Kirk, Marshall’s wife and the film’s co-screenwriter, stars as Rambette, or rather Sinclair. She’s a British fighter pilot whose plane crash lands over enemy territory in Afghanistan.
She scrambles for cover, finding an abandoned bunker that takes her deep below the surface. It’s there she encounters a horrifying beast, something scarier than an army of Taliban soldiers.
She escapes but must convince her fellow soldiers there’s a new threat in the desert, one that could wipe them all out.
“The Lair” is packed with howlers, from the creatures’ origin story to a preamble suggesting what we’re about to see really happened. That shtick died with “The Blair Witch Project.”
Need more laughs? The dialogue is beyond atrocious.
Action movie clichés are jammed into the actors’ mouths at every turn. It’s as if a computer digested every movie from the last 40 years and randomly generated quips from its memory banks.
The actors make them sound even worse.
Jamie Bamber of “Battlestar Galactica” fame attempts a teeth-grating Southern twang that wouldn’t pass muster on “Hee Haw.”
Marshall doesn’t know what tone he wants from scene to scene. At times this is a down and dirty war movie. The next moment the characters are trading quips like an ‘80s Ah-nold romp.
At one point a soldier describes the rag-tag outfit Sinclair stumbled into, a montage of wacky “types” meant to give the story texture.
“The Dirty Half Dozen,” Sinclair cracks.
Later, one of our heroes looks back at the umpteenth action set piece and says, “that’s some f***ed up s***.”
Who says they don’t write ‘em like they used to?
— (@BeatriceGiroux) October 16, 2022
Choppy editing reduces the action to a series of ugly blurs. The film rarely slows down, thank goodness, given the stilted nature of every human exchange. The shootouts and creature smackdowns register as visual noise, nothing more.
Make it stop. But it won’t, at least not until Marshall has made us re-think his promise as a horror film icon.
Gore hounds may cheer the practical effects, even if they hearken back to ‘80s cheese. A few “kills” are suitably gruesome, and an autopsy sequence delivers the goo and gore.
The beasties lack any sense of menace or mystery. They’re introduced early, look like actors wearing Halloween costumes and exhibit zero consistency. Some shake off gunfire. Others can’t out-punch a female soldier.
“The Descent” hid the mole-like creatures for a good half the movie, and when they arrived they inspired terror with every appearance. The actors wearing the milky-white costumes moved like creatures not of this earth, adding to the unease.
These critters do nothing of the kind.
How did Marshall fall so far? It’s been happening in slow motion over time, but “The Lair” proves he’s lost that genre feeling, possibly for good.
HiT or Miss: “The Lair” is a disaster, more proof that director Neil Marshall of “The Descent” fame will never match his early career highs.