The first few minutes of Rob Grant’s new film ALIVE play out like a nightmare. A severely wounded man (Thomas Cocquerel) wakes up in a hospital bed. He’s disoriented, unclear about his surroundings. The room is lit by a blinding light directly above him, but everything else is in shadows. He struggles off the bed and falls to the floor. We can’t tell the extent of his wounds,. However, his legs seem to be useless.
But the man is resilient. He drags himself out of the dark, dingy room and into the abandoned hall. As he makes his way toward the exit, another figure enters the scene. Is he friend or foe? It’s too early to know for sure, and yet thanks to Grant’s direction and Charles Hamilton’s strong cinematography, we know to feel uneasy.
This uneasy sensation only grows throughout the film as the questions keep piling up. Why is this injured man here in an abandoned hospital? Who is the mysterious doctor who retrieved him from the hallway? And how is the woman in the next bed involved?
ALIVE is the type of film that thrives off its central mystery, and as such, it’s best to leave the plot’s details as hazy to the potential viewer as they are for the main character. Suffice to say things aren’t what they seem—or are they?
This claustrophobic little film blends together classic gothic themes with modern torture and medical horror to great effect. Although writers Chuck McCue and Jules Vincent keep their story’s secrets close to the vest until the very last minutes, viewers undoubtedly will still be drawn in thanks to the intriguing mystery, creepy setting, and wonderful performances.
The film truly rests on the shoulders of its three-person cast, and each of the actors is up to the challenge. Thomas Cocquerel brings the “Male Patient” to life despite the fact that he doesn’t have a single line for the first thirty minutes. His “Female Patient” counterpart is played equally well by Camille Stopps, whose expressive face reflects the empathy of her character in every scene. But dramas like these live or die with the antagonist, and Angus Macfadyen’s “The Man” breathes life into this movie in more ways than one.
But mysteries are a double-edged sword, and what makes ALIVE so enthralling is also what may not work for some viewers. Grant and his writers have gone to great pains to shroud the truth of their characters’ situation. Each new setting reveals more potential threats without necessarily giving away clues. But those clues are what keep things fresh for the audience. When a filmmaker chooses not to give the audience clear and direct new information frequently, there is a chance their attention will wander. And that begins to be the case at about the halfway mark, as the patients begin to make their attempts to escape. Sure, there are hints to the larger truth, but never enough for the audience to feel like they can put the pieces together. The result is a ninety-minute movie that feels like it could have been trimmed down to fifty.
ALIVE is a bold, tense, and tastefully bloody film that elicits every reaction a horror fan craves. You’ll wince, you’ll gasp, and by the end, you’ll be glad just to be alive. Don’t miss it.
Rob Grant’s ALIVE will be available in the U.S. in theaters and on-demand on September 18, 2020.