Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Tank (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Jules (Luciane Buchanan) and her husband Ben (Matt Whelan) run a pet shop. It means they can be together as a family, with daughter Reia (Zara Nausbaum) helping out and even dog Archie doing his bit, but business isn’t great, so when they learn that Ben has re3ceived an unexpected inheritance, they wonder if it might be the solution they’ve been looking for. At first the overgrown, poorly preserved house doesn’t look as if it will be worth much, but when they see what’s at the back of it – a broad, steep-banked hidden cove on the highly desirable Oregon coast – they realise that they may have struck gold. They don’t make the mistake of moving there themselves – horror film risk number one – but do decide to stay there for a few days whilst they clean it up. Then Ben makes a different classic horror film mistake: he opens the trapdoor in the yard.
There’s a reason why Ben’s mother never told him about this property when she was alive, and it’s related to the reason why she spent the latter part of her life in a psychiatric institution. An earlier moment in which Jules and Reia discuss a cannibal axolotl in the pet shop is all the foreshadowing we need. Beneath the trapdoor, Ben finds an old water tank. He decides to refill it so that the taps in the house will work. In the process, he awaken something long dormant, or draws its attention back to the house. Scraps of lore in an old journal supply the backstory, carefully distributed across the running time. Suspicions develop in the usual order: first the dog, then the girl, then her mother – those least likely to be believed.
There’s a lot about this that’s formulaic, but it’s delivered with conviction, and solid performances make it more relatable than the average creature feature. You may wince early on and wonder if the family is facing a different type of predator when a real estate agent talks them into serious consideration of the first offer made on the place. You may experience some frustration at the uselessness of the local police, though this is a rural area and they are probably not as used to violent altercations as their urban peers. It’s a little disappointing that, given the nature of the beast, we don’t get to spend a bit of time exploring some of the more curious aspects of its biology, which have a lot of narrative potential. Director Scott Walker knows how to deliver on scares, however, and in a film of this type, that’s what really counts.
There’s a cute reversal of a familiar horror trope here as we watch the newly arrived family removing the boards which have been nailed across the windows of the badly aged, flimsy little house. Naturally they will regret that when doors start to rattle, when something creates moving bumps in the carpet in the middle of the night. Scenes inside the tank itself play with low light and the impenetrable sheen of the dark water. There are crumbling holes in the sides of the structure where something might come slithering through, and we never see all the way to the far end. Out in the woods, one might expect the humans – primates after all – to have the advantage, but Walker successfully conveys the fact that this is unfamiliar territory to them whilst their enemy knows every inch of it.
Shiny black flesh will, of course, remind viewers of another monster, and a scene towards the end of the film in which Jules descends into the tank resembles the latter part of one of its outings very closely indeed, though in this case it is difficult to have as much confidence in the heroine. Elsewhere, the name of Innsmouth may spring to mind. These derivative elements are unfortunate because the film stands well enough on its own two feet, at least in its more confident moments. The family unit is flawed enough to convince without relying on screaming arguments or impending divorces, and it’s interesting to see a male character dealing with the residual trauma of a troubled upbringing, something usually left to women, at least within the bounds of the genre.
Where Walker struggles with elements of the story, he scores well on atmosphere. The dampness of the air and the general decay of the house contribute to the atmosphere in a way which is every bit as important as the direct impressions of sinister goings-on. Jules’ mounting sense of dread is infectious and the scares are well timed. For best effect, watch it in the dark when rain is gently tapping on your windows, and remember to check underneath the bed before you turn in for the night.Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2023