I have two competing opinions about Rob Grant’s ALIVE; part of me loved the bloody disaster of the terrifying psycho driven torture porn, and the other is still angry about the left-field half-baked premise and the eye-roll inducing ending.
It could have been two separate really great films, one with the twisted premise dumped on the audience near the end, and one that focused on this psycho “doctor,” and his patients or kidnapees.
On the balance, I will sing this film’s praises. The opening scene was so jarring, of a legless man crawling across a hallway, leaving a trail of blood like a sliced up slug. Put plainly, it was terrifying, and set the tone for how the rest of the movie would play out. There was a good twenty minutes of the film where I found myself shivering and blinked maybe twice. It’s scary.
Two patients wake up in a hospital with no recollection of how they arrived there, or their lives before. They’re beaten up and strapped to their beds. Soon they meet their doctor, excited by their “progress,” but seemingly unworthy of their immediate trust. He forces them into some brutal testing and physical therapy that they suspect is doing more harm than good. Without knowing why they’re there.
Those who don’t find joy in some gore and torture won’t like this movie, but for the psychos among us who do, this film doesn’t disappoint.
It is reminiscent of Rob Zombie’s torture films like House of 1000 Corpses, but with a different style and level of restraint. The villain is one of my favourite tropes, the “well meaning,” focused and otherwise regular pain bringer who thinks he’s doing good. Angus MacFayden, who you’ll appropriately recognize from the meaty part of the Saw franchise is excellent as the maniac. His stature and demeanour are perfect for the role, and it’s believable that two seemingly otherwise capable people would fear him at a glance. He manages to be scary, untrustworthy, and pathetic all at once. His performance is really what drives this movie and makes the first two acts as watchable as they are.
I won’t be the only one to have soured on the ending. It isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for the movie’s watchability, but it throws a bit too much into the mix of an otherwise simple and scary movie. Though, admittedly, it does play up another trope that always induces my own nightmares, that maybe just when you think you’re safe, you’re not. It’s a lot and gives too much credit to a villain who would have been better as your average nutcase next door.
Based on my own physical reaction, I can say with confidence, this film is shudder inducing and terrifying. If you’ve ever wanted some gore that gives you chills at slicing and blood, this film has it. The physical therapy scene is an exercise of scare mastery, so I say, let it scare you and give the story a break.