The Lair


When news broke that Neil Marshall was making a long awaited return to monster movie territory, I was understandably stoked. After all, the director kicked off his cinematic career with the enviable one-two punch of Dog Soldiers – a rare werewolf movie that fucking rocks – and The Descent – arguably one of the most terrifyingly primal creature features of the 2000’s – and if we were being honest, after the misfiring Hellboy reboot, Marshall’s output could have used a little course correction.
Therefore, on paper, The Lair, with its marauding beasties and military setting, seemed the absolutely perfect project to return the director back to his roots after a successful tenure of helming episodes of such shows as Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and Westworld. However, it seemed that I was about to be monstrously disappointed…


Gutsy Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair is grounded in the worst way when her fighter jet is shot down over Afghanistan and after surviving an attack from a band of insurgents, she manages to find in imposing looking bunker covered in Russian writing. Making an on-the-spot decision that discression is the better part of getting in a firefight while being gravely outnumbered, Sinclair enters the installation in an attempt to hide and outmanuver her pursuers but instead stumbles upon a long discarded Soviet era experiment that saw the Reds playing to mix alien and human DNA like some sort of godless mocktail.
Obviously, the continuing spraying of bullets ends up shattering the pods that contain the misshapen results that involves them waking up in a predictably grouchy mood. Barely surviving a second near death experience in a matter of hours, Sinclair evades the rending claws, snapping teeth and weirdly probing tentacles of her human-ish attackers only to run headlong into an American patrol made up a motley crew of fuck ups. Taken back to their base along with Kabir, a captured Insurgent, she tries to warn her new companions about the snaggle-toothed berserkers she left in her rear view to predictably sceptical ears, but soon she’s proved right when the creatures decide to rush the barracks, shrugging off covering returning fire like they’re being shot at by spitballs from a plastic McDonald’s straw.
So, before you can say “wow, if I had a pound for every time I’ve watched this kind of movie”, the soldiers struggle to survive waves of attacks with a mixture of guns, fists and oddly placed wise cracks as they attempt to last the night in order to try and organize some sort of counterattack. To quote the legendary tag line, who will survive and what will be left of them – and will you give even the slightest toss? Cos I didn’t…


Sp to set the scene a little, I love movies that sees a mismatched, oddball group of survivors locking horns with a hulking, drooling evil looking to tear them limb from limb to the extent that I usually don’t even mind that these type of things usually display all the originality of a lobotomised parrot and of these, Dog Soldiers is one of the best. So you could probably imagine my disapointment when the normally dependable Marshall worrying seems to have completely forgotten how to make the exact type of tongue in cheek mayhem that actually made his name. The movie literally fuses the exact, eerie, subterranean creeps of The Descent (not to mention the refreshing usage a female lead) with the jokey machismo that Dog Soldiers lovingly lampooned during its lycanthope lunacy. With these credentials, Marshall should be standing in front of an open goal and yet chooses to sky the ball so far north over the crossbar you’ll expect it to come down with snow on it.
It’s a shame, because there’s potential in the surroundings that riff heavily on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan that, if told more from the Insurgent’s point of view could have been Rambo III meets Predator, but that’s glossed over in favour of a bunch of clueless jarheads who, despite their American nationalities, are all played by English actors who frequently sound like they keep forgetting exactly where in America their character is supposed to be from. Seriously, I’ve never heard so many atrocities heaped upon this particular accent since Carry On Cowboy with Jaime Bamber’s Finch, with his Snake Plissken eye patch and Matthew McConaughey’s vocal chords, being the worst offender.


Still, at least other members of the cast can have that as an excuse for some of the dangerously uneven performances on show here; lead, co-producer and director’s wife Charlotte Kirk on the other hand has no such get out clause as she attacks her role with a stunning lack of charisma, obviously confusing bland with tough and featuring annoyingly perfect hair all the way through.
The jokey, blokey attitude that got such an effective showcase in Dog Soldiers also seems uncharacteristically laboured here as the unfunny one-liners and unengaging characters are a pale imitation of what Marshall has knocked out of the park before. Sean Pertwee screaming that his intestines won’t fit as he struggles to stuff them back into a gaping wound in Dog Soldiers is very fucking funny, on the flip side, a character quipping “How was that for a military discharge?” after he has his arms blown off by a genade just doesn’t land as the script simply doesn’t earn its goofy approach.
Similarly disappointing are the monsters themselves, ruining a promising premise with boring designs, obviously rubbery suits and sticking extremely loosely to the very rules it concocts. What is the fucking point of making such a big deal of the creature’s kevlar-tough skin when a swift knuckle sandwich or even a good old Glasgow kiss can visibly rock them on their spikey heels? As a result we get a gaggle of unconvincing atrocities who are as memorable as Wednesday bowel movement.
Some may defend The Lair, citing a lack of budget as a possible reason why Marshall seems so out of sorts, but lest we forget, Dog Soldiers, The Descent and even Doomsday were hardly James Cameron-sized blockbusters and the director (like most who dabble in horror) has consistently delivered his best work under limited means.


On the very limited plus side, there’s some fun gore here and there than includes a memorable jaw removal and some poor simp having the back of his head punched out through his face, but what should have been a massive home run ends up with a strike out on the scale of any seasoned director fucking up with a genre that should be a damn cake walk.
Nothing less then a military-sized, monster let down.


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