Director: Ben Parker
Starring: Johannes Kuhnke, Charlotte Salt & James McArdle
Synopsis: A special ops unit commandeer a commercial research vessel and its submersible to locate a mysterious item at the bottom of the Yellow Sea.
Rating: 15 Duration: 88 minutes Release date: 20 March (UK)
The Chamber is an extremely frustrating film. What should be a claustrophobic, taut horror film set miles below the sea with its fair share of political tension is instead a well-meaning but ultimately dull film. It is perhaps mis-sold as a horror, and is better served as a thriller, and the element of claustrophobia is its best selling point-if only it knew what to do with it.
After a brief introduction to Mats (Johannes Kuhnke) we are soon boarding his submersible along with three Special-Ops members who want Mats to take them below the surface to find something very important. What that something is, is never quite revealed, but it proves to be a very sore point politically and our group must find it before someone else does. Despite its ramifications globally, the film is entirely self-contained once under-water. As events progress the four strong cast soon feel cabin fever descend and the situation spirals out of control.
One can only presume director Ben Parker has taken inspiration from horror staples such as Alien and The Thing and attempts to recreate some of that tension in The Chamber. The action is isolated and cramped, but it doesn’t discomfort the viewer in the way it should and in the way it clearly does to the cast. In fact, the main focus of the film is also its weakest and what should be disorientating feels more confusing than anything and results in the audience losing focus in what should have been a fairly simple premise. At times the film hits the right notes and forces through some genuinely good moments, but they are too few and far between.
It’s unfortunate for the actors that they appear to have little to work with here. Each falls into the standard character pitfalls; guy in over his head, tech guy with a conscience, tough guy with a temper and strong and assertive leader. What the film does to its credit is cast Charlotte Salt as Red; the team leader, and rather than have it feel like a tacked on after thought to put a woman in the lead, it feels natural and the characters around her react instinctively and while it is strained that is because of events, not because of gender.
Unfortunately for everyone else, their characters are two-dimensional caricatures who serve a film seemingly intent in riddling events with as many clichés as possible. It’s a massive disservice to the actors as they are given so little to work with and at times it becomes an utterly numbing experience.
Fortunately, the film does have at least one redeeming experience and that is the score by James Dean Bradfield. His simple yet suspenseful piece is deserving of a better film. It mixes modern elements, yes I am looking at you Inception, with some thoroughly old school themes. You can sense John Carpenter at various points, while Brad Fiedel’s The Terminator is clearly mimicked but with a degree of inspiration without outright stealing from it.
It really is a shame that The Chamber fails to deliver. It has an exciting concept that could have worked on several levels. Instead it suffers from being little more than a meandering 90 minutes, brought to a conclusion in a heavy, expected, way that is befitting of something better.
- Beneath the Surface of The Chamber Featurette
- Audio commentary with director Ben Parker