When many think of the work of Neil Marshall, their mind is sure to wander to monsters. Whether it be the eerily elegant werewolves of Dog Soldiers, the nightmare-inducing Crawlers of The Descent, or the skin-curling victims of the reaper virus in Doomsday, Marshall is the master when it comes to creating truly terrifying monsters.
And following the release of spooky offering The Reckoning in 2020, the director returned with an action-packed return to his monstrous roots with The Lair, now coming to digital platforms as well as physical formats.
Similarly to Dog Soldiers, The Lair takes advantage of a military setting for its scares as it begins with Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) being shot down over Afghanistan. As she is hunted by enemy soldiers she finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where she soon discovers there is a danger far worse than any human out there.
She accidentally awakens a clan of half-human, half-alien biological weapons who become hellbent on hunting Lt. Sinclair as well as the nearby battalion of American and British soldiers down to satiate their blood lust. However, the soldiers – including Major Roy Finch (Jamie Bamber), Sgt. Oswald Jones (Leon Ockenden), Corp. Jade Lafayette (Kibong Tanji), and Afghanistan native Kabir Abdul Rahimi (Hadi Khanjanpour) – make it their mission to eradicate the threat.
If an action movie, a war film, and a spaghetti western decided to have a fight to the death – that would be The Lair. The film is laden with familiar tropes such as the black-and-white good versus evil antagonists and protagonists, blaze-of-glory face-offs, and tense decision-making sequences between onslaughts from our alien enemies.
It comes off as corny and somewhat anti-climactic in places as the audience knows exactly what to expect, causing the constant stream of action to fall flat with few scares in between to mix it up. But The Lair never takes itself too seriously and the overarching B-movie atmosphere makes it a fun enough watch for horror and action fans alike. The practical effects used to create the monsters are a sight to behold as the intricate, gruesome details of the beasts themselves as well as the unpredictable way they move provide much of the thrills other elements of the film fall short.
The ensemble cast delivers satisfying performances, with Khanjanpour's Kabir being the standout as his one-liners and terrified reactions connect with an audience who would also most certainly stumble through the narrative of The Lair in his shoes. ‘Blink and you'll miss it' remarks in the dialogue show Marshall's attention to detail and dedication to his work as the clashing culture between the British and American soldiers is highlighted through lost-in-translation jokes and common misunderstandings that add a slapstick element to proceedings.
The Lair is a fun creature feature that fans of Marshall's previous monstrous offerings are sure to want to check out. While it may not rank among Marshall's best work, it's an overall enjoyable watch that highlights more of his flair for practical effects.
The Lair is released on digital, DVD, and Blu-Ray via Acord Media International on July 17.