CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TOM PATON / STARRING: SHAYNE WARD, SAMANTHA SCHNITZLER, BENTLEY KALU, RACHEL WARREN, SIMON MEACOCK, TOBY OSMOND, ALANA WALLACE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Britain is currently enjoying a surge of interesting and clever genre movies, and one of the directors leading the charge is the incredibly talented Tom Paton, a chap who seems quite adept at taking a simple idea and a small budget and turning them into a memorable movie. The Ascent blends horror, mystery and military action into a profoundly weird yet gripping experience.
The Ascent is the tale of ‘Hell's Bastards’, Black Ops mercenaries who are extremely well equipped but lack a moral compass. A mission somewhere in Eastern Europe leads the team to make a series of somewhat suspect choices, including the murder of an innocent woman. She hisses a peculiar malediction just before her untimely demise. Upon returning to the UK, the consequences of their actions become unleashed in the form of a deadly curse. The team is trapped in a Sisyphean time loop, forever having to move forward or die.
This is essentially a stalker/killer movie, except the thing that is killing them is a supernatural manifestation of their own poor choices, forcing them to constantly relive the team’s worst moments. This is a feature that could easily have been too preachy or obvious; instead Paton lends a subtle touch to it all, never giving the audience quite enough time to overthink the premise.Shayne Ward is particularly gripping as Will Stanton, the increasingly unstable leader of this band of mercenaries. Samantha Schnitzler, whom we previously saw in another Paton movie, Blacksite, plays the more sympathetic Kia Clarke. The two have a strong chemistry together making, Schnitzler’s cool charm bouncing off against Ward’s manic energy. Toby Osmond provides what little humour there is in this feature with his usual skill and Bentley Kalu is as mesmerising as always as Ben, a mercenary who just wants to get the job done. Paton applies his trademark creativity to the low budget; the movie is shot in a wash of blue or red, lending a powerful sense of strangeness and dread to the entire affair. The soundtrack is solid throughout, conveying the growing sense of dread and change rather effortlessly. CGI is used sparingly. There’s enough action throughout to deliver on the promise of the premise, but this is mostly a tense supernatural thriller.
The Ascent is unique, clever and unforgettable. Just be careful you don’t end up watching it on loop.
The movie is now available via the curated streaming service BirdBox, and is known to the US market as Black Ops.