Reviews | Written by JAMES "MAGIC" PERKINS 29/08/2019

THE ASCENT [FrightFest 2019]

After a mission for "Hell's Bastards" amidst a civil war goes awry in the most spectacular fashion, the team are soon tasked in climbing a never-ending staircase and must face their past sins otherwise they will meet a grizzly end in genre-favourite Tom Paton's latest film, The Ascent.

In recent times, Paton has been a guiding light for British genre cinema and continues his strong catalogue of films with this great mixture of Horror, Thriller, Mystery and Drama. The story follows the aforementioned squad through a daunting mission introducing each of the unfortunate souls who will soon be forced to relive their darkest moments after squad leader Will Stanton (Shayne Ward) forces Kia Clarke (Samantha Schnitzler) to execute an entire camp of soldiers including a defenceless hostage. Unbeknownst to Stanton, his actions have committed his team to a most devasting of prison sentences - death by Back to the Future II (as eluded by one character in particular).

From the outset, the film is bathed in a beautiful yet harrowing blue light - similar to that seen in the final act of Steven Soderbergh's Unsane - a really interesting filming technique that gives the environment an otherworldly feel which fits perfectly into the aesthetic that Paton was aiming for, whilst also allowing them to film during the day. Once the team is tasked with reporting back to mission HQ at the top of an ominous staircase, Paton's use of lighting, sound and camera angles helps develop a unique yet familiar feeling to each floor that they progress too whilst also creating anxiety to the squad's impending doom as they are stalked by their past as they get picked off one by one.

The performances, especially from lead actors Ward and Schnitzler, are fantastic. They bring an unequivocally military feeling to the characters which makes a vast majority unlikable, to begin with (which was on purpose) before allowing a majority of the characters room to grow and feel more human as the film goes on and they encounter the horrors which make them think twice about what they've done.

As with his previous films like Pandorica and Redwood, Paton has taken a simple context, multiple genres and expertly crafted them together to make an atmospheric and action-packed feature that proves that Hollywood does not have all the answers. The Ascent is easily Tom Paton's greatest accomplishment to date securely placing him near the top of the list amongst other rising British talents in independent cinema like Lee Cronin, Charlie Steeds and Scott Lyus.