Opening with the end of the world as we know it, The Divide dives straight into a cataclysmic chaos. The likes of which we have all perhaps imagined, as panicked people desperately race through a New York apartment building which crumbles around them in hope of finding safety in the basement from the nuclear bombs falling all around.
Interestingly though the end of the world is only the beginning of this story as The Divide follows what happens to a rag-tag group of survivors who find themselves thrown together after the apocalypse.
The converted fallout shelter created by the building’s paranoid superintendent Mickey (Terminator and Aliens legend Michael Biehn) may keep them safe from the outside world of radiation and who knows what. However the confined environment is a hot-bed for tension and terror as the eight survivors find out very quickly.
As they try to fathom the loss of all their loved ones and the world they once knew, the reality of their situation slowly dawns on them. Squabbling turns into physical violence as the group fight over food, water and power over what little they have left.
As cabin fever sets in each individual is pushed to the limit, some slipping into insanity and others turning to primal perversion and power games pushing one member of the group Eva (Lauren German from Hostel: Part II) to wonder if the burned out poisoned shell of a world outside might be better than the hell she currently inhabits.
As post-apocalyptic horrors go The Divide is one of the most powerful and hard to watch in recent years. Taking its cues from the brilliant Blindness the semi-sci-fi movie focuses more on the human reaction to the destruction of mankind rather than dwelling on the actual act.
The fact that the film literally closes the door on the outside world after the amazing effects packed opening shows the movie’s mandate to avoid comparison with special effects driven disaster pictures (such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow). This gives us something far more scary – the very loss of humanity, which can take place when people are driven to the edge.
Excellently filmed, director Xavier Gens whose previous work includes extreme neo-Nazi horror Frontier(s) and so-so video game adaptation Hitman pushes the characters and the audience as far as he can. He gets amazing performances out of the cast making the third act of The Divide extremely difficult to watch for the sheer brutality and degradation inflicted and are endured by the survivors left alive.
As mentioned both Biehn and German, who provides an emotional and accessible centre to the film, are great and they are joined by some equally outstanding performances including Heroes Milo Ventimiglia, Final Destination 5’s Courtney B. Vance and Rosanna Arquette among others.
Using the destruction of the earth as a plot device to explore the true depths and limits our humanity will stretch and sink to, The Divide is a challenging character study. It shows that true terrible horror can often be found within ourselves and our actions rather than in the outside world.