The Facility is a new medical horror film from writer-director Ian Clark, his first full-length work. Due for release on DVD and Blu-ray on the 6 May, the film follows the story of eight drug trial volunteers – or guinea pigs – as they embark on a clinical trial of the mysterious new drug Pro9. When things start going wrong after dark, a safe and controlled medical trial quickly turns into a frantic bid to escape each other, and The Facility. Shot on a low budget, the film aims to produce a sense of realistic, close-up horror that will have you avoiding your local pharmacy for weeks.
The Facility had a few really good sequences that were actually quite scary – the filming and production values, despite the film’s low budget, were actually very acceptable, and often conducive to the kind of suspenseful, claustrophobic horror that the film had to offer. Scenes where the sane patients watched their crazed companions roam the hospital through CCTV cameras were particularly nerve-fraying, and when one woozy test subject sees (or appears to see) the facility’s only nurse fleeing into the night, the surreal horror of the moment is very keen.
The film starts and ends with some lazy text, which rudely uncovers the film’s low budget in a way that the production values didn’t. In the case of the opening text, this meant that as a viewer I had no sense of the characters’ identities before they entered the clinical trial, which proved a barrier to finding them relatable and real. Although the actors involved all did a very credible job (especially Steve Evets, whose performance was particularly enjoyable), this meant that they started at a disadvantage – a bad favour from their director.
When the film was concluded with another couple of paragraphs, I was left baffled. According to the closing text, six people died in the film (I only counted four), and ‘no one was prosecuted’ for these deaths. Since this is not a true story, and we weren’t introduced to any characters who would have been prosecuted anyway, this is just a completely irrelevant statement to close the film with.
The ending also failed to explain anything about the drug, or why the testers were apparently not worried that the test subjects had killed each other – as well as a couple of staff members at the facility. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that nothing important was explained either in the film’s conclusion – or the lazy footnotes that followed it. Couple this with the fact that the scary killer drug apparently just wears off after a few hours, and you get a horror film that doesn’t even tail off to a poor conclusion; it just stops, awkwardly.
To sum up:
Despite showing moments of promise, The Facility fails to deliver a complete package. The production values and acting are well-judged and smartly delivered, and the writing and direction were almost enough to put this film where it needed to be. Fatal slip-ups like opening and closing the film with large blocks of text and introducing story elements that couldn’t really be resolved hobbled my enjoyment of the film, as well as making it seem incomplete and badly planned. I will be interested to see where Ian Clark goes from here.