What would happen if, instead of Bowman and Poole aboard the Discovery One, NASA had instead sent Jack Torrance to Jupiter, all by himself? That’s the question Richard Mundy essentially poses in his debut feature, which arrived two years ago at UK film festivals and is now being rolled out across home media – as It Lives in the UK and the more ostentatiously Orwellian Twenty Twenty-Four on the other side of the Atlantic.
There’s no mention of Stanley Kubrick in any of the promotion, although the comparisons are not just unavoidable but absolutely glaring.
Less than a decade into the future, the threat of nuclear apocalypse is now so imminent that twelve massive bunkers have been built to house those most likely to be capable of rebuilding the world after the inevitable has happened, and so we join Roy as caretaker of the Plethura, readying the complex for the arrival of its expected inhabitants, and helped by his only companion, the computer ‘Arthur’. Do you really need us to tell you what happens next…?
If you hadn’t guessed, the world above suddenly goes silent, leading Roy and Arthur to guess that the anticipated residents of Plethura aren’t going to turn up. What does turn up is an unexpected door, and an even more unexpected possible presence, and suddenly Roy’s giving it his best Jack Nicholson while the silent Arthur (who speaks only in on-screen messages) does his best as a kind of mute Douglas Rain.
This is psychological thriller in the guise of cheap horror, and if there isn’t an idea, a visual, or a music cue that you haven’t seen or heard before in either 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Shining, then at least you’ll have some fun spotting which film Mundy is referencing at any given point. And to be fair, he does throw in some Blair Witch towards the end, just to keep us on our toes.
What we do have is feature novice Andrew Kinsler as Roy, faced with the task of keeping the entire film standing and not doing the worst job he might have. In fact, he totally looks the part as the kind of loner scientist who wouldn’t have minded months of isolation in an underground bunker; he’s the approximate midway point between Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, and his Nicholson face isn’t too bad either. Unfortunately he’s a bit less of a natural during the repeated sequences where he’s called upon to converse with a silent computer monitor, but to be fair most inexperienced actors would have struggled with that.
Despite a meagre budget, the self-taught Mundy manages to invoke both the look and sound (and some of the feel) of Kubrick’s best work, and simply because he’s aiming for the stars, that he falls short doesn’t make It Lives any less worthy of investigation. If Mundy can overcome his reverence for the master, he’ll have a much more interesting future ahead of him than he depicts here.
REVIEW: IT LIVES (aka TWENTY TWENTY-FOUR) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RICHARD MUNDY / SCREENPLAY: RICHARD MUNDY / STARRING: ANDREW KINSLER / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 6TH