‘The Lair’ Review: Dir. Neil Marshall [Shudder Saturday]

 Co-written by Marshall and his lead, Charlotte Kirk, The Lair has been described as a combination of The Dirty Dozen and The Thing. The story begins as RAF pilot Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) is shot down over Afghanistan. As she flees enemy forces, Sinclair seeks shelter in a bunker. What lies in wait below is far worse than what’s outside though. Sinclair manages to get out and is picked up by friendly American forces, but the nightmare isn’t over as something has followed Sinclair back to her sanctuary.

After the rather po-faced direction and tone of The Reckoning, Marshall is back on home turf. There’s blood and guts galore, with the Marshall brand of humour that made Dog Soldiers so endearing. The Lair has a real B-movie spirit to it and if, as a viewer, you watch it through those eyes, then it’s a lot of fun. If however, you are anticipating something subterranean and sinister like The Descent then you best turn back now.

Just how much of The Lair‘s silliness is legitimately meant to be funny is unclear. The script is clunky and several characters exist merely to spit out wisecrack after wisecrack. It appears that others are present only to contribute cultural stereotypes, such as the Welsh boy from the valleys who loves his rugby and asks “what’s occurring?” Worse fairing characters serve no other purpose than to die and be fodder. By far the most hilarious is eye-patch wearing Jamie Bamber who gleefully chews his way through a Southern accent.

These are not the loveable rogues of Dog Soldiers nor are they the well-drawn women of The Descent. Having leads you can relate to and get behind has always been Marshall’s strong suit, but here there’s a disconnect between the audience and Sinclair. She’s not the Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor that the script is trying to peg her as. In a cast of characters who frequently make stupid decisions, Sinclair is the worst offender. One decision she makes prior to the finale is so unfathomably stupid and reckless that it is she who brings about the climatic carnage. Her choice brings on the lionshare of her allies’ deaths and it makes no sense for someone who is supposed to have been trained in military logistics. With Sinclair feeling a tad too hysterical, it’s the sure-footed Dwayne Hicks type character of Hook (Jonathan Howard) to whom the audience warms the most. His no-nonsense attitude enables him to be the type of character that the viewer can get behind. 

Neil Marshall films have always been known for their practical effects work and The Lair is no exception. The work on the fearsome foe that Sinclair and company encounter is excellent. They are a lumbering blend of xenomorph, licker, and Venom; they are sheer brute strength and vicious killers. The kills are superb, with heads severed, faces ripped away, and people exploded in graphic fashion. Good gore alone can’t save a film though and The Lair, although enjoyable in a ‘let’s laugh at all the silly decisions being made’ kind of way, is unlikely to go down as one of Marshall’s greatest hits.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review first appeared on THN.

The Lair is out on Shudder now.