Directed by Stephen Patrick Kenny
Distributed by Left Films
A dozen bleary-eyed unfortunates wake up in a sealed bunker with no idea how or why they’re there, nor do they know each other.
An almost inaudible voice on the end of a phone explains completing random tasks will aid survival.
“Is it a Saw sequel?!”
The year is 2021.
Stephen Patrick Kenny’s Captive (“oh…”) is set in an unnamed city, during an unexplained war, where no one except an unseen, all-knowing overlord knows what is going on. For all its comparisons with Saw and 1997’s Cube, the fact it seemed comfortable in its own triteness gave me hope. I was more than willing to see what it had to offer and assumed a lack of originality and budget would be made up for with a sharp script, nifty practical FX, and some imaginative massacring. Ah well…
I love low budget, independent horror films. So much so that I have my own website dedicated to promoting them. Man, I’ve recently made a short flick myself and can fully understand how overwhelmingly stressful, draining, and cutthroat it can be. So it’s with the heaviest of hearts when I criticize the yield of some poor sap’s countless sleepless nights and energy drink comedowns, but honest I must be: Captive simply didn’t deliver.
Derivative or not, the concept remains a decent one but soon becomes tiresome and disappointing when it’s not expanded upon in the slightest. The instructions our characters must follow are potentially brutal and the outcomes should have been enough to please the average gorehound, but while the first glimpses of carnage show promise, we’re soon starved of any at all – director Kenny preferring to inform us of each death via onscreen text summaries (a technique I strangely liked and understand with regard to budget constraints), but these were used too often and eventually felt like a get-out rather than a nice quirk. With a strong script driving us forward and giving us something to cling to this may not have been the case, but, alas, this wasn’t to be either – the dialogue is basic, clichéd, and unintentionally funny in parts, making the characters impossible to invest in. Chuck in a mixed bag of performances from the cast, and we’re in trouble.
As well as an ill-fitting, looped score that doesn’t seem to reflect events onscreen, Captive is beset with sound issues and jumps from painfully loud to worryingly quiet every few seconds, to the point where I either had to violently mash my remote to stop my ears bleeding or tentatively turn it up to affirm I hadn’t lost my hearing for good. Such issues obviously have a negative effect on pacing, and the entire runtime feels fragmented, filling me full of frustration rather than tension.
On a positive note, when not interrupted, Captive’s camerawork flows and tries its best to keep us involved (there just isn’t enough to be involved in), while assured editing and post-production touches – such as neat colour correction – suggest there will be some successes to come out of this tame and rather unenjoyable muddle.
With no puzzles to figure out, no clever, original gimmicks to appreciate, and no scares whatsoever, we’re left with a 74-ish-minute feature that still manages to feel too long; so much so, when the potentially interesting and tense finale arrived, I didn’t really care.
As for the extras, we get a short film called Anchor which, if anything, is more polished than Captive; Captive‘s theatrical trailer; and a series of trailers for Left Films’ other current releases. The DVD is currently available from Amazon UK.
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