Review: The Divide (18) / Director: Xavier Gens / Screenplay: Karl Mueller, Eron Sheean / Starring: Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia / Release Date: April 20th
The Divide, the new apocalyptic horror thriller from director Xavier Gens, is both shocking and disappointing in equal measures. Though harrowing enough to have apparently made some people walk out of a recent FrightFest screening, the film never quite manages to live up to all the hype.
When the long anticipated nuclear bomb eventually hits a present day New York, eight disparate people find themselves taking shelter within the warren-like basement beneath their mid-town apartment block. With it clear that they will not be able to venture outside anytime soon, the boundaries between civility and base animal instinct become blurred and the true nature of each individual comes to the fore.
Then they hear the bang from the other-side of the heavy iron door which separates them from what has become an unknown and alien world outside...
Though The Divide has all the ingredients for wham-bam, in-your-face Horror/Sci-fi, it fails to use them to the best effect. It has so many varying elements that ultimately it fails to make good use of any, whether that be the nuclear fallout, sociological breakdown or a strange governmental scientific experiment angle which is tantalisingly thrown in but never brought to full fruition.
Ultimately, like its characters, The Divide reverts to a base level and proves true to the old adage, 'united we stand, divided we fall'! Foregoing the initial promising premise of the group battling collectively with an unknown entity, the film falters when it instead opts for an ensuing battle for survival between the individuals themselves, culminating in a two hour, nauseating schlock-fest. Everything from amputation to beating and burning is here with some off-screen mutilation with a blunt axe thrown in for good measure, resulting in what is little-more-than cringe inducing torture porn.
Having said this, the film is not without its redeeming features. Beautifully shot, cinematographer Laurent Barès gives the proceedings a suitably claustrophobic atmosphere, whilst writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean capture the breakdown of each individual with sharp and, one would imagine given the circumstances, authentically acerbic dialogue.
However these said points in the film's favour are diluted by the lack of any real depth or personality given to the cast. Except in a couple of instances (the proceedings are lent some degree of gravitas by the presence of Hollywood stalwarts Michael Biehn and Rosanna Arquette), the viewer is provided with next to no background on the individual characters, which might have made their plight and the extremes to which they are ultimately pushed to, if not palatable, at least understandable.
One can't help but feel after having watched The Divide that it would be better to go out with the apocalyptic bang than wait around for the aftermath if a nuclear war ever does take place.