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Review: Alive (2019)

With Fake Blood and Harpoon, Rob Grant has made a name for himself in the past few years. However, his film Alive debuted at 2018’s Blood In The Snow festival and then seemed to vanish. Possibly overshadowed by Harpoon. Or possibly because it’s grim, serious and without the black humour of his other films.

A man (Thomas Cocquerel, The 100) wakes up to find himself in a deserted and seemingly abandoned hospital. Despite his condition, he tries to escape but is caught by what appears to be a doctor (Angus Macfadyen, Braveheart, Equilibrium). He awakes again to find a woman (Camille Stopps). Neither can remember who they are, or why they’re here. Or where “here” is for that matter.

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And while their caretaker may seem kindly, he’s obviously not stable or even sane. And he’s also been doing some severe and unauthorized surgery on both of them. As some of their memories begin to return, the two try to find a way to escape. But in their weakened condition and with no idea where they are, what chance do they stand?

The first impression I got from Alive was that Grant had decided to try his hand at torture porn. Possibly something resembling Kôji Shiraishi’s Grotesque. Thankfully, Grant is interested in a different kind of medical malpractice. Bits and pieces of these are revealed as the couple tries to make their escape. But even as we get more clues, they don’t quite add up.

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Once Alive moves into escape mode, it becomes an extremely tense game of cat and mouse. As the pair stumble their way through a dark and unfamiliar territory, its resident and his very large dog are hunting them down. And the abandoned hospital is the perfect structure for it. Filthy, bloodstained, and equipment strewn everywhere. And it holds some hellish secrets.

Just because Alive isn’t a torture flick, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some wince-inducing violence. Grant along with writers Chuck McCue and Jules Vincent use it to punctuate the story, rather than letting it be the story. Which it could have been done in less talented hands. But the bloodstained floors and walls combined with occasional bursts of actual nastiness do the job quite well. Especially considering how nasty some of those bursts are.

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All this builds to an ending I certainly didn’t see coming, although maybe I should have. It’s effective, but I can see it being divisive as well. Saying anything more would give too much away. Well OK, I will say one more thing, there are mid and post-credits scenes.

Unrelentingly tense and grim, Alive is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year.

Alive is currently available in the UK from Blue Finch Films. You can check the film’s Facebook page and website for US festival screenings and release plans.

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