Low-budget Brit horror The Facility aims for tension rather than gory thrills with a story of a group of pharmaceutical test subjects who realise they’ve signed on for more than they bargained for.
The band of unfortunate guinea-pigs is made up of a watchable bunch of actors, including Aneurin Barnard (Citadel, Elfie Hopkins), Steve Evets (In the Flesh, Looking for Eric) and Alex Reid (The Descent, Misfits). Writer/director Ian Clark takes the time to establish his characters in terms of how they interact with each other, but we haven’t formed much of an attachment to any of them by the time things go bad, and they do go bad,
The drug they’re testing (Pro9) turns out to have some pretty horrific side-effects including psychosis and some unpleasant swelling. As the group begins to fall prey to their violent natures one by one, they look for a way to postpone the awful inevitable. The film is set entirely in one location and Clark sensibly grounds it in reality while making the most of it. The facility looks like somewhere people would plausibly be treated, there are no signs of decay or flickering lights here (at least, not at the start).
It’s interesting to see a low-budget horror embrace the mundanity of its setting and Clark obviously wants that realistic feeling to extend to the horror. The problem is that, once the test subjects start wigging out, there’s not really anything that’s unexpected. We know who’s going to turn when because we know in what order they took the drug. The characters that you’d expect to prove antagonistic show themselves to be exactly that, and Clark’s decision to focus more on the paranoia and despair of those waiting to turn instead of regularly facing them with the newly-violent does drain some of the tension out of it.
The performances are solid, with the ever-reliable Evets making the most of his sarky drug trial veteran, Reid is good but under-used as laid-back “pharma’s daughter” and the likeable Barnard makes for a decent lead. Special mention goes to Amit Shah as the nervy Arif, who is quite reasonably worried that things will go horribly wrong.
It’s often a relief to see a horror give a lot of attention to its characters, and there are some affecting and interesting moments to be found here. However, despite some decent performances and a couple of good ideas, it’s finally all rather routine and a bit dull.