The Divide (2011), the new apocalyptic horror from Director Xavier Gens, both shocks and disappoints in equal measure. Though this thriller, starring legends Michael Biehn, Courtney B. Vance and Rosanna Arquette, was apparently harrowing enough to make people walk out of a recent FrightFest screening, it never quite manages to live up to all the hype.
When a long-anticipated nuclear bomb hits New York, eight disparate people take shelter within the warren-like basement of their mid-town apartment block. As it becomes increasingly clear that they will not be venturing outside anytime soon, the boundaries between civility and animal instincts become blurred as each individual’s true nature comes to the fore.
Though The Divide has all the ingredients for an in-your-face horror/sci-fi, it fails to use them to the best effect. With so many varying elements, it ultimately fails to make good use of any, be it the nuclear fallout, sociological breakdown or governmental, scientific experiment angle tantalisingly thrown in but never made full use of.
The Divide’s characters ultimately revert to base level, proving true to the old adage, ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ Foregoing the initially promising narrative thread of the group battling collectively with an unknown entity, the film falters when it opts for a battle for survival between the individuals themselves, culminating in two hours of nauseating schlock. Everything from amputation and burning to mutilation with a blunt axe results in little-more-than cringe inducing torture porn.
The film has some redeeming qualities. Cinematographer Laurent Barès captures a suitably claustrophobic atmosphere, whilst writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean make the group’s disintegration come alive with sharp and realistically, acerbic dialogue.
However, these favourable points are diluted by the lack of depth or personality given to the cast. Excluding a couple of instances (the proceedings are lent some degree of gravitas by the presence of Biehn, Vance and Arquette), the film has a dearth of background on the individual characters, which might have made their plight and the extremes to which they are ultimately pushed to, if not palatable, at least understandable.
Having watched The Divide, one feels it would be better going out with an apocalyptic bang, rather than hanging around afterwards – if and when the nuclear bombs do in fact begin to drop.