The Control Group is a confusing film that aims high and falls some way short, entangled in a web of its own intricate making. Not only does it feel that way while watching as the multiple plot threads meander along, you also sense the cast themselves are somewhat baffled by the events they’re asked to portray.
Now, there is nothing wrong with a little mystery and ambiguity, and The Control Group certainly starts off confidently, withholding any information not absolutely necessary to the early scenes. With only the memory of a party the previous night, five college students wake up in an abandoned asylum that appears, initially at least, to be inescapable. As they explore each begins to hallucinate as masked, beaked figures pursue them relentlessly. All quite interesting. But then the film makes a strange side-step to reveal this is all part of some secret government conspiracy, with the group as the chosen guinea pigs.
What follows is an exposition heavy narrative that ties itself in knots trying to offer justification for what you’re watching on screen. The various department heads behind the experiment are at each other’s throats for the entirety as each strives for control over a situation that very quickly gets out of hand. This “scientific” approach sends The Control Group down a much more formulaic path as that initial interest peters out into a film more concerned with splattery violence as various nasties meet heavily armed military types.
Much of this excess and unnecessary padding detracts from what is essentially a decent horror movie. The performances are fine on the whole, with Brad Dourif turning on his most potent version of an unhinged doctor, and you do find yourself drawn into the character’s dramas. Aside from some occasionally ropey effects, the gore and violence are passable, being no more or less than what you tend to expect from low-budget horror such as this.
So, a decent little horror ruined by an obsession with over-complication? Well, yes. What could have been an enjoyable, if largely formulaic genre film becomes an increasingly frustrating and tiresome experience as it progresses. The asylum setting, and the need to escape it or die, is so well used you can’t blame the filmmakers for trying to invent new and ingenious storylines, but with The Control Group they have pushed the script one or two twists and turns too far.
Even a bloody nod to Dario Argento’s Suspiria can’t save The Control Group in its final moments.
THE CONTROL GROUP / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: PETER HURD / SCREENPLAY: LOGAN GION, PETER HURD / STARRING: BRAD DOURIF, ROSS DESTICHE, JENNA ENEMY / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE TBA