MARCH 10, 2013
As of this writing, Storage 24 has the horrible distinction of being the lowest grossing film of the year and the second lowest (reported) grossing film OF ALL TIME per BoxOfficeMojo, with a horrible 72 dollar gross on the 1 screen it played on (which was in Chicago, if memory serves). So at the end of the year, people will make fun of it (as they did with last year's lowest grosser Playback, also from Magnet) and it will make for funny trivia, but few of the members of this peanut gallery will actually take the 85 minutes to actually watch the damn thing. And that's a shame, because it's actually a pretty enjoyable modern Alien ripoff, and better than most of the big-screen horror films that I've seen this year - anyone who thinks Last Exorcism 2 deserved more exposure than this needs their brain checked.
The worst thing about the movie is that it's not really doing anything new: a creatures escapes from its transport vessel (a military plane that crashed) and picks off a group of folks somewhere. It's been the plot of a zillion movies, but like a masked slasher movie, it's the details that separates the good from the bad. And I liked the little spins they put on such fare, starting with the titular location - a storage facility (one that is thankfully free from reality show crews). Our heroes are a recently separated couple and a couple of friends who are dividing up their possessions when the electricity goes off. Worse, the outside doors are sealed shut, trapping them inside with the creature. The alien wipes out the staff and an engineer sent to work on the electrical problems quickly enough, leaving our quintet to try to find a way out sans any guidance in the maze-like structure, and along the way meet a guy who lives in his storage unit in order to hide from his ex-wife. It's a fun little cast; at first I was a bit disappointed that pretty much everyone knew each other as opposed to a Precinct 13 style group of strangers, but it actually works to its advantage.
See, just as much as it is an "alien killing people" movie, it's also a redemption tale of sorts for its hero, played by co-writer/producer Noel Clarke. As the one who was recently dumped (this also explains his lack of a cell phone in a pretty hilarious way, as it's at the bottom of a river because "that's what happens when you get dumped over a phone"), he starts off the film as a whiny sadsack, more upset about his own little drama than the potential major loss of life in the plane crash. Honestly I thought they were setting him up to be the annoying buddy to the guy who would be our actual hero (Colin O'Donoghue, who I recognized from The Rite and thus pegged as the lead), but once everyone meets up and we find out a bit more about their breakup, Clarke gradually emerges as the true hero, shedding his selfishness and becoming the man that his ex dumped him for not being in the first place. It's not QUITE as great as Moses in Attack The Block, but I would put it in the same ballpark, thanks to the movie's other similarities (aliens, British folks, one location) and Clarke gives himself some pretty great lines throughout that helped make him even more endearing (plus he gets one final little dig at the ex that killed me), something that can annoy me in some movies written by a star, but here it actually worked (and he writes himself as an asshole for the first half anyway).
Now (minor spoilers), some infidelity comes into play, but what's interesting is that it's the guy who's been cheated on for a change; so many of these movies have the Final Girl's boyfriend be the guy cheating with one of her friends, which is never interesting to me - we know exactly how it will all play out since she's the damn Final Girl! But here, Clarke's girlfriend had been having an affair with one of the other folks, which allows for some actual suspense - will Clarke let the cheating woman who broke his heart die, or risk (lose?) his life to save her? In fact throughout the film I was never sure who would make it out alive and who was dead for sure, and that alone puts this above the average modern Alien wannabe. It's amazing what a little genuine suspense can do for your movie, not to mention finding the sweet spot between giving them real life problems but not making them hateful - not only can you sympathize with Clarke for being dumped/cheated on, you can also see his girlfriend's POV - he was boring her and clearly self-centered (nice little bit of underplayed dialogue - Clarke can't even remember how long they've been together), and she finally decided to break it off when it became clear he wasn't going to change. It works.
Oh, and it probably goes without saying since I liked the movie, but it's a practical creature! He's got some CGI enhancements in the mouth, and the kills are a blend that's hit or miss (the heart pulling is pretty bad, but the jaw removal is pretty good!), but when he's clawing through a wall or chasing someone (or, sigh, doing the Alien "in your face" thing that really needs to go away forever), you can enjoy a rubber flesh and blood creation with a guy inside the suit. Fittingly, this process is the focus of the blu-ray's longest bonus feature besides the feature commentary - a 20 minute look at the design, application, and execution of the suit, which Clarke says was partially inspired by Carnage from the Spider-Man comics. It's a pretty great piece, filled with interesting reveals (Clarke says he wishes the head was smaller, but understands that it's the director's call - a remarkable thing to hear from a screenwriter) and lots of footage of the poor bastard putting the suit on, which takes a timelapse sequence (with 4-5 folks doing the work) to show him getting on its entirety. The other featurettes are also pretty interesting since they cover things not often shown on horror movies like this, such as the costume and sound design.
The rest of the video supplements aren't that exciting; some video blogs and "day in the life" pieces are pretty fluffy (and hindered by obnoxious opening/closing titles), and the deleted scenes are mostly just alternated/extended takes of what we saw. The trailers are kind of interesting as they are mostly created to sell the film at various festivals and thus are longer and looser than a typical trailer - I'd welcome a bonus feature about the process of marketing these films at various festivals where everyone is competing for the same distribution. The commentary by Clarke and Roberts is a pretty enjoyable one; the two get along quite well and have a fun little chat about their movie, occasionally going off on tangents about superhero movies (Roberts is not a fan), the Alien comparisons, etc. Definitely a track worth listening to if you enjoyed the flick; if not then there's not much that will change your mind (other than proof that yes, they love Alien and wanted to pay homage to it).
A pal of mine was incredulous when I tweeted that I liked the film, and I remember similar pans when it hit theaters earlier this year (some folks had screeners, I guess), but I don't get the hate (a lot of folks I know also hated on director Johannes Roberts' previous film F - I quite liked that one, too). It doesn't do much new storywise, but it's got some personality, some endearing goofy touches (I can see the barking puppy toy being a turn off, but I thought it was hilarious), and an engaging everyman hero. Maybe it was because I just suffered through the 23058th "I'm not a hero! OK I guess I am" character arc in the dreadful Sam Raimi Oz movie (first Raimi film I actively disliked; I even considered walking out because I was so bored and knew how it would end up anyway since it was a prequel to the 1939 film), but I liked how the "hero's rise" was handled here, and found it a pretty enjoyable way to kill 85 minutes. It got the job done, and done well.
What say you?