Directed by Xavier Gens
When Jean-Paul Sartre wrote his play No Exit – the existentialist tale finds three people trapped in a room, left to a hellish eternity of psychological torture – it’s doubtful that the playwright and philosopher was aware of the template he was creating for low-budget horror movies. Taking advantage of a post-apocalyptic setting, filmmakers like The Divide’s Xavier Gens have used this model to showcase the human condition: where characters from all walks of life are forced together, fending for their own survival, eventually revealing the absolute worst in all of us.
It’s a cheap device, but when done well, it can be profound, especially when you have the right cast in place. Excluding standout performances from the always entertaining Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Planet Terror) and a welcome return to the screen for Rosanna Arquette, the rest of the ragtag group of survivors – stuck in a bomb-shelter after nuclear fallout – just don’t have much to offer. And aside from the cinematography, the film itself isn’t a very memorable addition to the end-of-the-world subgenre.
Biehn’s character Mickey is the superintendent of the building the survivors now find themselves in, and he immediately assumes command, forbidding anyone to open the door to the outside world for fear of radiation poisoning. If everyone just worked together as a team from the start, there would be no reason for internal conflict within the group … but where’s the fun in that? Some of the others eventually rebel against Mickey, but they are all forced to band together once soldiers in Hazmat suits armed with automatic weapons come rapping at the door.
The third act becomes a microcosm of what must be happening across the country, as each person’s mind becomes vitiated by the desperate situation they find themselves in. A healthy dose of radiation poisoning doesn’t help either, with some characters becoming gaunt and sickly while others devolve, turning Arquette’s character into a kind of willing sex slave.
Rest assured, the outside world – now transformed into a series of tunnels and science stations – is explored during the film, but it only leads to hurt and heartache for the rest of the group.
Desperation is certainly on display in The Divide, but the humanity and likability of each character is sorely lacking. Instead of pathos, each passing minute leads to annoyance and apathy. If we don’t care about the characters, do we still care what happens to them? Sartre was right. “Hell is other people”, and The Divide certainly proves that.
2 out of 5
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