A man and a woman regain consciousness under horrific circumstances, finding themselves held captive in an abandoned sanatarium by an unhinged and sadistic caretaker, in Rob Grant’s (Harpoon) highly disturbing and darkly twisted, Alive.
Alive is a slow burner that, to begin with, conforms to some of the expected clichés seen in capture/torture flicks, but at the same time manages to divert from type, taking on some bold narrative turns that keeps the audience on a knife-edge (or should we say on a scalpel-edge?). Alive is a high tension, cat and mouse game leaving its viewers guessing throughout as to who will survive or how will they die?
Grant opts for a grim aesthetic, the environment of the sanitarium feels grimy, unsanitary, nauseating, and claustrophobic, allowing for a real visceral viewing experience and an uncomfortable tone. The notion of being held captive, with someone else taking control of your whole being, with unspecified drugs being injected into your body is a terrifying thought, leaving us with empathy for the characters in the sense of how will they fight their way out of the situation or is Grant leading us towards a bleak and harrowing conclusion?
The film does create parallels with the original SAW (2004), Alive’s plot surrounds two characters held against their will, with no memory of how they got there, they are taunted by their captor whose intentions are explicitly sadistic and the film plays out as a puzzle box of intrigue into finding out more about the core characters and their purpose to their captor.
Interestingly, in Russia, the film is titled, SAW: The Beginning, despite being thematically similar, Alive is not part of the SAW franchise and is arguably a better film compared to many of the SAW sequels. It’s common practice in Russia for films to be connected to well-known franchises purely due to marketing purposes. While Alive would be at home as a SAW film, it more than holds up on its own.
The film’s most gripping aspect is the performances from the three core characters, the unnamed male and female patients (Thomas Cocquerel and Camille Stopps) and their unhinged tormentor (Angus Macfadyen). The fact that the characters remain unnamed builds up the intrigue throughout the film and brings in an intense dynamic where it’s never certain which way it will play out.
Thomas Cocquerel delivers a phenomenal performance as the anguished man, who has woken up disorientated in an unpleasant situation with no memory of who he is. Camille Stopps character is his anchor, she is the most resourceful of the pair with a strong survival instinct and determination to help them escape their horrific situation. Angus Macfadyen is utterly psychotic as he puts his patients through bizarre escapades of torture and violence guaranteed to make the audience squirm.
The film is gore heavy with impressive, blood-curdling visuals and stomach-churning sights, notably in the latter part of the movie. Alive is a bloodbath with a strong storyline, giving the gore a purpose and not featured simply for the sake of it.
Alive is brilliantly paced from beginning to end, culminating in a satisfyingly twisted turn of events. It’s a film that truly packs an impact from being an intense ordeal horror to insanely thought-provoking by the time the end credits roll.
Alive is a film that is best approached knowing next to nothing about what to expect, so sit back, uncomfortably relax and become absorbed into a true horror movie experience as it should be.
We at Love Horror dare you to watch, Alive, which is available digitally right now in the UK and Ireland.