The Lair Poster

The Lair (2022) Review

With his last few films not receiving what could be called a warm reception, Neil Marshall has gone back to his roots with The Lair combining elements of Dog Soldiers and The Descent into what he and co-writer Charlotte Kirk hope will be the comeback film that The Reckoning wasn’t.

Capt Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) gets shot down over Afghanistan and has a run-in with some Taliban who are kind enough to put their guns away and come at her with swords ao her co-pilot can kill them before he expires as well. That still leaves her on the run from all the other hostels in the area. Fortunately, there’s an old Soviet bunker nearby she can hide in. Unfortunately, there’s already something in there, something that gets set free in the ensuing fire fight between Sinclair and her pursuers.

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After escaping the bunker with the inadvertent help of the creature, she falls in with the motley US/UK crew from a nearby base. Major Finch (Jamie Bamber, Titanic 666, Battlestar Galactica) who sports an eyepatch and an accent so thick it approaches parody, dismisses her story. Wilks (Mark Strepan, Northmen – A Viking Saga, A Beautiful Curse) the base’s medic is at least willing to admit her wound didn’t come from a bullet. But they quickly change their minds when night falls and some unexpected visitors arrive.

The Lair begins on a cliché note, with Sinclair flashing back to a memory of her young son waiting at home for her return as her plane goes down. And that unfortunately is just the first of many tired moments Marshall and Kirk throw at us. The Taliban fighter who trades an easy kill with his gun for a chance to use his sword, and the captured one who was forced into serving as a driver. Our heroes are, predictably, a squad made up of “burnouts and misfits”, and their adversaries’ Area 51 influenced origin is recycled.

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It doesn’t help that we’ve had a few similar films lately, such as Death Valley and The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus. The creatures here even bear a resemblance to the ones in Death Valley, for that matter. And then there are intentional references, such as an autopsy scene influenced by The Thing, to make The Lair feel even more derivative.

Thankfully, Marshall is smart enough to keep the plot in the background and build The Lair around a constant stream of action scenes involving our heroes, the creatures and the Taliban. The first act does feel a bit too much like a female Rambo at times as Sinclair has such an easy time disposing of her opponents you have to wonder why the war wasn’t over in a matter of months.

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The attack on the base, however, is nicely staged with man-in-suit creatures and several bloody deaths as bullets and bodies start flying in all directions. It’s an effective way to whittle the cast down to a core group of survivors who have to take the fight to the creatures in their lair. This is where the stops get pulled out in a three-way battle with the added complication of the Air Force on its way to drop a huge bunker-busting bomb on the site. It more than makes up for the film’s lack of originality with a tight, action-packed climax that’s only partially derailed by a bit of bad CGI.

While it can’t match Marshall’s best films, The Lair is an enjoyable creature feature. It’s mindless fun and it knows it. This isn’t something that will stick in your head like the films that inspired it, but it’s fun while it lasts. And sometimes that’s all you need.

RLJE Films gives The Lair a limited theatrical release today, October 28th as well as making it available on VOD and Digital platforms. It will also be available on Shudder at a later date.  You can check the film’s website for more information. And if you’re looking for more monster mayhem, FilmTagger can probably help you out.

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