The Lair (2022) Lacks the Firepower Necessary for its Creature Feature War Horror Setup
Title: The Lair
First Non-Festival Release: October 28, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Charlotte Kirk, Neil Marshall
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Starring: Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard, Jamie Bamber
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Crash landing in the middle of the dessert, Cpatain Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) wards off attacks from insurgents by seeking shelter in a mysterious bunker. She discovers something is much more terrifying within its laboratories than outside, so after escaping danger a second time she finds herself in the company of a group of American soldiers. The monster that failed to catch her, however, has found its way to their base camp.
Tepid creature feature The Lair suffers from terrible writing, hokey performances, and dull action sequences.
Silly sci-fi horror films prominently featuring monsters have been a staple in the genre for years, unfortunately The Lair sucks all the fun out of its premise thanks to its commitment to genericness. From its cgi heavy plane shooting sequence, featuring a hilariously ill-timed flashback interlude, to its introductory battle between Captain Kate Sinclair and local militants, The Lair is not aspiring to be more than a middling venture into the desert.
Its cast of dull throwaway characters played soullessly by the ensemble cast make The Lair one of the more laborious watches from Shudder’s recent slate of films. One of the most frustrating aspects of nearly any horror film featuring the military is the general inability of the filmmakers to make their large group of characters distinguishable from one another. The Lair is no exception. Aside from a few superficial quirks and the a strangely diverse range of accents, there is little done to develop any of the crew into genuine characters. This makes many of the deaths lack gravity, especially considering how repetitive most of the kill sequences are.
Speaking of repetition, Captain Sinclair finds ways to evade danger that evade logic time and again that it becomes irritating to watch. The plot armor shields her from harm on the multiple occasions where any other minor character would easily be offed. Had she found ways to showcase her wits or strengths to get out of a majority of these situations it would be way more appealing, but she always seems to get by thanks to other characters or convenient writing.
It doesn’t help that writers Neil Marshall and Charlotte Kirk insist on the poor portrayal of all but one Afghani person as a mindless, killing-focused infidel always acting as another force for the heroes to fight against and making fighting the “real evil” more difficult. Kabir (Hadi Khanjanpour) is given little agency as the token “good one” and serves as little more than that role and his personal knowledge of the monster’s history with the area and his potential connection with the creatures.
Perhaps the biggest issue, however, lies in the disconnect between its script and tone. From the script, it’s apparent that The Lair is meant to be a campy film filled with one-liners, impossible plotting, and bulletproof protagonists. Unfortunately, the humor in The Lair is so dull that it makes nearly every moment of its intended comedic beats stale and cringeworthy. The life is sucked out of the air many times throughout the film when one of the jokes launches and lands with the grace of nuclear bomb.
It’s hard to dismiss The Lair as a completely unwatchable film. Marshall injects a sense of drive in the film that always keeps the action moving forward. Characters are often given very little time to make decisions and must react quickly to whatever force they are fighting back against. While slightly underused, the set pieces are largely engaging and dynamic in nature so it doesn’t look like the characters are facing the same obstacles every time they face a setback. There are also quite a few moments of fantastic gore utilized within the film including a particularly gnarly face ripping sequence towards the beginning.
Another disappointing entry in Neil Marshall’s recent catalogue, The Lair is a wasted opportunity. Although it excels in its creature effects and its drive, the film fails to amount to much due to its rough script and honed-in performances. Tonally inconsistent and altogether joyless, this sci-fi horror film fails to stand out from the many similar films it emulates. The mission to make a truly fun modern horror action sci-fi war film isn’t impossible, but The Lair does imply the search is still on for that next hit.
Overall Score? 4/10