What do Attack the Block (2011), Die Hard (1988) and Alien (1979) all have in common? They all know how to use their locations. They’re also not set in a storage facility – unlike Johannes Roberts’ Storage 24 (2012). The low-budget British sci-fi takes their example and runs with it, squeezing enough excitement from its corrugated steel walls to make up for a lacklustre script.
Roberts’ claustrophobic genre flick begins with Charlie (Noel Clarke) on the way to the titular London warehouse with his best friend, Mark (Colin O’Donoghue). Little do they know that a military cargo plane has just crashed into the capital, sending the city into lock-down – Charlie’s too concerned about his ex, Shelley (Antonia Campbell Hughes), who’s also there to divvy up the pair’s belongings. A couple of power-cuts later and they’re all locked in with a shifty repairman, a bored employee and a token elderly crackpot. No points for guessing who makes it out alive.
That’s the main problem with Storage 24: playing spot the stiff has never been so easy. People might as well walk around with signs above their heads saying ‘Scapegoat’, ‘Martyr’, ‘I’m Next’ and ‘Not Very Nice Person So it’s OK if I Die’. Clarke and Campbell-Hughes make their awkward chemistry work, but while the Kidulthood creator gets bonus points for his likeable screen presence, he loses several for co-writing such a painfully obvious script.
Still, Roberts gets the most out of the mildly novel premise (at one point shoving his heroes through air vents, John McClane-style) and there are some welcome stabs of humour. The pacing is fairly nippy, too, while the derivative monster design is gooey enough to keep the thrills cheap and trashy – the way they should be. But the stock characters and predictable tropes stop this enjoyable indie production from being truly impressive.
Like Alien before it, Storage 24 knows how to milk its location for some fun set pieces, but it hasn’t got a clue how to use its humans – something highlighted when Laura Haddock’s sidekick breaks out a pack of fireworks, inadvertently bringing to mind last year’s Attack the Block. What else do Joe Cornish’s film, Die Hard and Alien have in common? They’re all better films. Although even they might struggle to top Storage 24’s playful final shot: a ballsy reminder of why it’s good to see another British sci-fi on the big screen.