Screened as part of last year’s EIFF and Film4 FrightFest lineups, British director Ian Clark’s low-budget debut The Facility (2012) (formerly known as ‘Guinea Pigs’) now finds its way onto DVD, having just missed out on a theatrical release. A group of eight strangers come together at an isolated research facility to undergo a phase one medical trial for an untested drug called ‘Pro-9’. Most of the participants are there for the money, with some having made such clinical trials their primary source of income. Katie (Nia Roberts) is a journalist there to cover the procedure for a piece she’s currently writing – entitled ‘The Last Resort’.
If Katie was looking to discover the depths that people will go to when faced with extreme hardship, then she certainly gets what she came for, as she and the others soon encounter a series of peculiar side effects from Pro 9. As the symptoms begin to worsen, each of these glorified guinea pigs begins to fear for their life, isolated and trapped in this confined research centre and terrified about the mortal danger which now plagues the hallways. Utilising numerous components from various horror sub-genres, The Facility attempts to combine the psychological terror of found footage with the visceral nature of Cronenbergian body horror.
Sadly, Clark’s film lacks the budget and apparatus to prove wholly successful. It’s a shame, as there’s a fantastic premise behind the stunted and cheap façade of this ambitious genre piece. Creating a horror about the psychological effects of a group of strangers, as they witness first hand the pain and torment of their gruesome fate, creates a fascinating observational piece on human behaviour. Yet, despite some good performances, there isn’t really enough depth to the film’s handful of characters.
The Facility has the intrusive feel of a Big Brother-style horror story, replacing the prospect of fame as a destructive catalyst on its inhabitants with something far more comprehensible and less superficial. However, the absence of any real sense of peril leaves Clark’s debut feature feeling like a cinematic experiment gone horribly, frustratingly wrong. This is undeniably a smart and well-acted horror on paper which, through poor execution, fails to shock, scare or excite in any substantial or satisfying way.