There is something about living in the actual dystopian future which makes alternative timelines for our current state of affairs all the more interesting. Gone are the days of being scared by the cautionary tales of the likes of H.G. Wells, George Orwell, and Ira Levin, the fall of empires and the earth collapsing in on itself like a dying star. We’re living it. The White House hosts a human Wotsit living on a sinkhole. People riot in the streets, punch each other in restaurants, shoot each other in a Tesco car park, and upload it straight to the internet within minutes of it occurring. The dystopian future is the dystopian present. And set six years from now, It Lives takes the fallout of nuclear war as the backdrop for its attempt at a psychological nerve-shredder.
Sadly, I can’t tell you that it succeeds, and for the sake of being distracted from the sad and awful current reality now there’s no World Cup to distract anyone, I really did want it to.
The (basically) one man cast of Roy, played by Andrew Kinsler, lives deep underground, following protocol from the big cheeses up top, keeping the bunker fast and functional for what I imagine are probably rich people who might have to come and live there if the world actually does melt in a chemical firestorm. His only companion is the computer, Arthur, who, reminiscent of Mother in Alien, never has anything particularly helpful to contribute, and even more annoyingly, has been asking him every single day for 4 years, “What’s on your mind?”
Roy starts hallucinating, dreaming about himself in stressful and mildly gory circumstances, generally becomes distrustful of Arthur and the powers that be, finally sliding into full paranoia about halfway in. I want to like Roy, I want to root for him, but at more than one juncture, he definitely reminds me of Arnold J. Rimmer in more serious moments, and I just can’t get past that in attempting to connect to the only character in the film.
We’re presented with ghost figures in the bunker, on the motion tracker, in Roy’s dreams, but It Lives never really follow up on any leads. I guess we’re being left on our own to decide whether or not these things are real, or if Roy is just mad as old tits from being trapped in a shed for four years, but there isn’t enough evidence to support either argument, and by the end of the umpteenth weird Sixth Form film project-esque close up sweaty brow shot, I don’t think I really cared.
Don’t think I’m all doom and gloom. It Lives has a few moments worthy of your attention, not least of all because there’s only about 10 people involved in the making of it.
It makes you jump on several occasions, the moody soundtrack (classic “sinister flute”) stirs a genuine sense of suspense, and Arthur the computer even makes you laugh once. But with dream sequences that play like a particularly cringey fantasy sequence in an episode of Spaced, clunky dialogue reminiscent of a BBC2 90s late night, and a “lone survivor questions sanity” premise which, well, you could see more professionally executed in the likes of Moon, Gravity, Sunshine, and even I Am Legend – I’m not entirely sure this is worth the trawl-through. Without wishing to spoil the ending for anyone still interested in watching the film after I’ve been so cruel, I asked out loud to my empty living room “Did they really just do that?” then the credits rolled and I went to bed in a huff.
Maybe when we’re all headed for the bunker in 2024, this will kick back with a little more steel in its toe caps, but for now it’s a no. Sorry, Roy. Sophie Francois