Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"This is Alive in name only."

After the sharp-witted pleasures of last year's Harpoon, hopes were high for director Rob Grant's next feature. It's a real disappointment, then, to see Alive, a film which spends an hour and a half going nowhere in particular just to embarrass itself with a pay-off that is predictable, underwhelming and fudged in the delivery. Whether or not it works for you may depend in part on your reaction to Angus Macfadyen's mannered performance as the caretaker of a mysterious medical institution, which some people seem to find creepy and others just twee, but even if he makes a favourable impression, the film has precious little else to offer.

Its premise is this: a man and a woman (Thomas Cocquerel and Camille Stopps) wake up in the aforementioned institution with only the vaguest memories of who they are. Both show signs of having been severely injured. Macfadyen's character, the only other person there, makes a show of providing them with treatment but refuses to take them to a proper hospital; it's not clear that he has any kind of qualifications and the place is seriously unsanitary. Much of the time he seems to be enjoying the suffering that his 'treatments' cause, especially where the man is concerned. Fans of gorno may get something out of this; for others, the hour or so spent repeating this routine becomes increasingly tedious.

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Neither Cocquerel nor Stopps is incapable as an actor and it's fair to say that they acquit themselves better in this scenario than many would, but neither gets much to do, and the potential inherent in Stopps' portrayal of habituated victimhood is squandered. All three main characters are underdeveloped and the actors can do little more than turn the volume up and down on their monotone emotions. There's some effort to deliver on gruesomeness and gore but this will appeal only to a very select audience. With little to build on, scenes of our protagonists lurching around the corridors seeking a means of escape fail to generate much tension. Rather than adding atmosphere the drab cinematography, compromised by various effects layered on in post, simply makes the film look even more bargain basement than its themes would suggest.

A lesson, if one were needed, to the effect that a single idea is not enough to carry a film in which everything else has been seen many times before, this is Alive in name only. When its characters start thinking about suicide you'll be willing them on.

One hopes that this does not sink Grant's career, as he is demonstrably capable of much, much better. Exactly what went wrong here is a mystery. It feels like a film pieced together out of too many compromises and hurried in the execution. No matter how much one may yearn for him to return to form, however, there's no denying that Alive is dead weight.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2020
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A severely injured man and woman awake in an abandoned sanitarium only to discover that a sadistic caretaker holds the keys to their freedom and the horrific answers as to their real identity.
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Director: Rob Grant

Writer: Chuck McCue, Jules Vincent

Starring: Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Cocquerel, Camille Stopps

Year: 2018

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada


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