Now here’s a surprise. A micro-budget shot-on-video British supernatural horror film that is neither found footage nor completely dreadful. In fact THE CAPTIVE (aka ARMISTICE) actually isn’t bad at all. About halfway through I was struck by how much it felt as if I was watching a segment of the long-running BBC1 series PLAY FOR TODAY. And that’s definitely a compliment. In fact, if you are of a certain age and watch it with that as a point of reference, you’ll probably end up enjoying it as much as I did.
An unnamed soldier, identified as a Royal Marines Commando by his tattoo, wakes up to find himself trapped in a house. Every morning a bell chimes and an alien creature appears. They fight and he has to kill it or be killed himself. He then has to find ways to occupy himself for the rest of the day. The next morning the cycle begins again. Eventually he becomes aware that he has been in the house for months and perhaps years. The discovery of a journal reveals that he is not the first soldier to have become imprisoned in such circumstances. As he reads his predecessor's notes and explores the house further – tearing down wallpaper and digging in the cellar – the reason why he is there eventually becomes apparent.
As I’ve intimated above, THE CAPTIVE should by all rights belong to the lovely-cardboard-slipcased-box-art-disguising-shit-film-within subgenre, except that the film itself is actually rather good. It reminded me of the kind of 1970s BBC play you’d end up talking about in school the next day, or even a six part ITV series where you had no idea how it was going to end. I suspect I’m being excessively kind to this simply because I’ve been exposed to so many examples that have more than lived down to the above appellation, but in all honesty I’d be very happy to recommend THE CAPTIVE to anyone who fancies a quiet bit of supernatural horror. The acting is good, the direction is way better than just competent, and the editing is great – I even jumped a few times. The icing on the cake is the music score, which is a subtle, understated and sometimes heartbreaking duet for piano & cello for the most part.
The 101 Films release of THE CAPTIVE presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There are no extras, which is a shame because the people behind recent micro-budget-and -majorly-amateurish efforts like LORD OF TEARS could probably benefit significantly from the opportunity to learn more about how this sort of thing should really be done.
101 Films released THE CAPTIVE on Region 2 DVD on 25th August 2014