Introductory texts tells of how, on the 10th of August in 2010, a group of strangers volunteered to take part in scientific research for the promise of 2,000 each. All they had to do was stay at a remote clinic for 14 nights and agree to have small amounts of a recently developed drug injected into them on a daily basis.

"This is what happened ...", the text concludes.

From there, we meet the volunteers arriving separately at the plush Limebrook Medical Clinic. Morty (Steve Evets) looks like Frank Gallagher and sounds not unlike Johnny Vegas. He's a seasoned 'lab rat' - someone who pretty much undergoes these type of paid experiments for a living. Joni (Alex Reid) is a temp worker who's also an experienced guinea pig for cash.

New to the event are nervous Arif (Amit Shah), openly cynical journalist Katie (Nia Roberts), pumped up womaniser Jed (Oliver Coleman), and ditzy young blonde Carmen (Skye Lourie).

The group is completed by wide-eyed slacker Adam (Aneurin Barnard), whose laid-back jokey approach to life brings him close to Joni from the offset.

But not too close. After briefly being shown their sleeping quarters, the group are gathered together to meet Dr Mansell (Chris Larkin) who lays down the ground rules of their stay there: they're to be injected with experimental drug PRO-9, while in the meantime they must stay within the clinic and eat only the food provided. They're told to abstain from drinking, smoking, exercise and sex - "does that include masturbation?" Jed frets - while access to the Internet and mobile 'phones is prohibited in a bid to concentrate their reactions to the drug.

On the plus side, there's a pool table, television, video games ... Yep, the group are soon bored.

But that soon changes when Mansell's assistant, comely nurse Madeline (Emily Butterfield) administers the drug into each one of them a short while later. There are no immediate effects but, as they sit down for their evening meal later in the day, Jed - who was the first to be injected - gets agitated for no apparent reason and retires to his bed.

During the night, the others are woken by Jed screaming in agony. Mansell sedates him and houses him in quarantine, but by this time the rest of the group are growing uneasy. It doesn't help when they find Arif soon after, screaming and covered in someone else's blood. It seems the drug is going to turn each of them, one by one, demented.

Upon discovering Mansell dead, the group realise they are locked in a building that has no way of communicating with the outside world and reinforced windows so strong that they can't break through them. Rather than allowing panic to set in and wait for each of them to suffer a psychotic reaction to the drug, they set about trying to save their own lives. Well, that's the initial plan anyhow - panic, and pain, do of course set in rather swiftly...

Though never cited anywhere in the extras as an inspiration, it's impossible to watch THE FACILITY without harking back to the horrific news story that broke back in 2006 when a group of volunteers took a drug called TGN1412, which was being developed by TeGenero Immuno Therapeutics to help combat the onset of leukaemia and rheumatoid arthritis. The volunteers reacted extremely badly to the drugs they were given, one man's head ballooning to twice its original size. Fortunately there were no fatalities but the story was scary enough to make anyone with half a brain think twice about putting their name forward for these kind of experiments, and by the year-end the company responsible were filing for insolvency.

Here, writer-director Ian Clark takes that frightening scenario and fashions it into a simple, no-frills formula which works superbly because (a) the real-life case is still fresh in our minds, and (b) he does what few genre filmmakers do these days and focuses on characterisation over gore.

As a result, and at no detriment to this 79-minute film's pace, we get to learn more about these characters than we normally would and consequently the latter half grips tighter as their predicament becomes more hairy. For a change, there are people here that we actually like and want to see make it to the end of the film. Which is always far more involving than just sitting through a bunch of obnoxious twats getting their innards systematically splattered across the screen.

Benefitting from taut editing, attractive camerawork and a subtly affecting score, THE FACILITY is much more credible than its rather drab title and cover art suggests. Give it a go. Its denouement does admittedly lack the conviction or impact of its build-up, but sterling performances and Clark's promising direction more than compensate for this.

Momentum Pictures' UK DVD presents THE FACILITY uncut in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture has been enhanced for 16x9 television sets. Although not a film that relies on vivid colour schemes and garish scenes of boldly realised fantasy, the transfer looks as good as the deliberately drab clinic setting will allow. Blacks are stable throughout, while flesh-tones are accurate and detail is healthy even during darker sequences.

English audio comes in an intelligently designed 5.1 mix. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read.

A static main menu page leads into a similarly static scene-selection menu, allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

An excellent 17-minute Making Of featurette serves as the principal extra. In it, Clark makes for an engaging host as he talks us through the backgrounds of each character, as well as telling of how he graduated from the National Film & Television School and was offered the opportunity of making a "micro budget" film as a result. Hence, he pitched the idea of THE FACILITY and ... the rest is history. This is an excellent accompanying piece, completed by spoilerific clips from the film and a few contributions from the actors along the way.

The film's original trailer is a well-edited 2-minute affair, while a 1-minute teaser trailer makes the bizarre decision of selling the film as another crappy 'found footage' flick. It's not that, at all.

Speaking of trailers, the disc is defaulted to open with previews for HAMMER OF THE GODS, THE BAY and the remake of Nicolas Winding Refn's PUSHER.

THE FACILITY is a tense little home-grown chiller. It's a low budget affair from a first-time filmmaker, so expectations should be kept in check. Bear that in mind, and I reckon you'll be sufficiently rewarded by a character-driven film that has more to offer than a lot of the torture-porn posing as horror nowadays.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Momentum Pictures
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review