Lowering expectations from practically its first minute, there is little good to be said about Johannes Roberts’ (F) British horror pic Storage 24. Beginning with a suspect opening exchange, in which an explosion at a storage facility causes onlookers to suspect a terrorist attack, the dialogue and performances, without exception, are execrable. Why are they not more panicked, given a possible terrorist attack has just taken place next to their office? Are they not scared about a follow-up attack? There is not an authentic reaction in the bunch, and their staid reactions – certainly not a product of shock – may be only a minor moment in the film, but they help set the dull, soporific tone present throughout.
When sad sack Charlie (Noel Clarke) and his buddy Mark (Colin O’Donoghue) drive to a storage facility to sort out Charlie’s belongings following a split with his girlfriend, Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), he didn’t bank on encountering a vile alien creature who crash-landed there earlier in the day. He also didn’t expect Shelley to be hanging around, who with mates Nikki (Laura Haddock) and Chris (Jamie Thomas King) is similarly sorting out her share of the loot. With this beast prowling the hallways, they’ll have to put aside any personal differences to survive the night which, of course, most of them don’t.
Even if you can forgive the ludicrously contrived circumstances of the group’s entrapment – with an intermittently faulty security gate operating just enough to let them in, but immediately ceasing to function afterwards – Storage 24 is a film without any sense of wonder or imagination whatsoever. Many of its best moments are borrowed from better horror films, namely a sequence in which an electrical engineer creeps down to the basement, and is promptly disposed of, Harry Dean Stanton-style in Alien. Some might be keen to call it an “homage”, but it takes – from that film and others – without providing anything of its own in kind.
It’s purely business as trite and usual for the genre here, fielding out the loud tension chords and clanging metal with the half-baked intent of constructing a jump scare, but not even managing that basic achievement. Roberts, though filming a rote story featuring a relatively interchangeable lineup of creature-fodder, at least has the good graces to shoot it with a stylish, mindful eye, dynamic enough that its confined location doesn’t seem murky and repetitive. The creature design, though derivative, is appropriately grotesque and well-executed, especially given the evidently low budget.
Unfortunately, this due attention doesn’t transpire into the characters, who resemble hastily-assembled cardboard cutouts, and rather unsavoury ones at that. The drama – in which Charlie discovers some unfortunate details about his ex-girlfriend – all feels like padding, providing additional character motivations that simply aren’t necessary. Furthermore, when a film ends up making you actively root for the villain, whose screen time is approximately 1/8th of the protagonists, you’re doing something wrong. It’s just a shame that the creature is itself reduced to horror cliché, holding the good looking and more important characters in its grasp for much longer before trying to kill them, whereas the peripheral and “bad” characters have their faces sucked off with the efficiency of a ravenous vacuum cleaner.
Tone is also a severe issue; the film can’t decide whether it wants to be a serious, visceral sci-fi horror, or something light to the touch and funny. One scene in which the remaining survivors tie a bunch of fireworks to a toy dog to fight the alien feels wholly at odds with one moments earlier in which a man has his face violently squashed like a stale watermelon. That its absurd final shot is so predictable and arbitrary that it’ll have you laughing all the way home is, however, another matter altogether.
Again making us wonder how he gets any work at all, Noel Clarke proves an uninspired lead in a film that oozes with poor creative choices. Director Roberts gingerly acquits himself from a stylistic perspective, but can’t do much with a duff script resembling the floor sweepings of vastly superior sci-fi flicks. Simply, the film is, as Clarke’s hooded Kidulthood character might say, “well gash, innit”.
Storage 24 is in cinemas now.