April 15, 2012

Filthy Review - The Divide

The Divide (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

So often the end of the world, however it happens, is romanticized in movies. It’s not always the case, although apparently survivors will all band together and make the most of a bad situation. In many regards I am reminded of the classic movie The Great Escape; prisoners living in what looks to be almost a holiday camp, whereas the reality of the situation would have no doubt been a lot more uncomfortable. Would the end of the world be any different? Would everyone join up and make the best of it? Xavier Gens doesn’t think so, and neither do I.

Gens, who brought us the terrific and brutal Frontiers, has shown that he can make a nasty film. Sure, Hitman didn’t float everyone’s boat, although that was his first foray into the horror that is Hollywood. Personally, I dug it; I thought it was a decent adaptation of a cool videogame. It would appear though that something left a bitter taste in Gens mouth though, because his follow-up, the movie I am now reviewing, is a bleak, violent and despairing two hours of cinematic pain.

The movie opens, in quite spectacular fashion, with a New York City in the midst of a nuclear attack. A small group of residents in an apartment block manage to make it down into the relative safety of the building’s basement, and this is where the majority of the movie takes place.

The building’s super, played wonderfully by Michael Biehn, is a real grumpy hard-ass; he lays down the rules in no uncertain terms, and despite his gruff exterior, seems to have a handle on things. One thing is certain; he knows that escape is pointless and futile from their underground prison. The rest of the survivors comprise of a mixed bunch; there’s a couple, a mother and daughter, a group of three friends and another resident, who luck would have it made it down on his own.

None of them are happy to be there, but what are they going to do about it? The following hour and forty five minutes or so follows their underground incarceration and the negative effects it has on them all. I’m not going to kid you, nor am I spoiling anything, when I say that The Divide does not have moments of levity and no brief respite from the horror outside; this is a horror film at its darkest, and the horror is very much internal rather than the usual external horror. Sure, New York City has gone to shit, but the real horror is contained in the basement.

Xavier Gens has managed to take this story to expected and unexpected areas using the limited locations. The film is at times claustrophobic, due to its location, but it never feels small in scope. There are times when certain stereotypes do manage to creep into the script and in turn some of the characters actions, although this did not seem to have a negative effect on the film’s overall power. This film will manage to throw a few surprises at you, and it will make you feel like crap once it finishes. If you have seen Gens earlier movie, Frontiers, you might have a rough idea of tone that he is capable of creating. The Divide is darker and more disturbing.

Visually, The Divide is a dark movie as well; however the lighting ensures that we don’t miss anything that happens, even though we might want to miss some of it, and the score only adds to the movie’s overall effect.

The Divide is a bleak movie, in case you hadn’t guessed that by now, it is unbelievably bleak, so don’t say I didn’t tell you so. This isn’t Hollywood horror, even though there are plenty of familiar faces in it, and all of them put in wonderful performances, so you might want to have something a little more light-hearted lined up for after the film. The Divide will stick in your mind, and whilst it isn’t perfect, portrays what I can only imagine to be a savagely realistic scenario, should the nukes ever fall.

Xavier Gens is back and pissed off, and he wants you to join his end of the world party. Highly recommended.

The Divide is released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 17 by Anchor Bay Entertainment.

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