Alright, I’ll be honest, when I tuned in for Storage 24, I expected a full on SyFy stinker with no real pizazz or spark of ingenuity. A movie about two friends stuck in a storage warehouse with one’s ex-girlfriend, her best friend, and her best friend’s boyfriend, while something stalks them in the powerless maze of other people’s junk? Psh, tired concept, new location, same old, same old. Even the usual adoration of British sensibilities and dry wit didn’t get me a bit excited, but horror is horror, so I soldiered up and took a gander.
Now, I think the best way to go about this review is react in real-time as I roll back the film for my cranial theater to process. Why? I believe it will make my train of thought a tad bit easier to understand, and you’ll get a taste of the violent mood-swings Storage 24 causes.
Let’s start initially. Storage 24 kicks in with a loud bang as a poor desk clerk at a large storage unit rental location working his mundane shift experiences an earth shaking event, soon to be revealed as a downed plane. Because of the large-scale disturbance made by the wrecked aircraft, the storage facility goes into lock-down mode, trapping the man and a customer inside. But what could it be! What-so-ever could have been on that plane! Of course we don’t know yet, but what we can assume is whatever was being shipped broke out of a large metal container smashed to pieces by the fall, and is now on the loose. A poor girl and her dog learn the hard way, as the dog runs into darkness, barking away like a crazed beast, but then we hear a whelp, whimper, and the saddening sound of an execution.
First impressions? Yawn. I feel for the old pup and all, but films often use such an innocent off-screen event to signify an evil beasty, and Storage 24 does nothing to make the introduction unique. At this point I’m strapping in for every creature feature cliché imaginable.
Oh yes, and don’t worry either “readers who have yet to see Johannes Roberts’ sci-fi flick,” as it’s common knowledge Storage 24 is a creature feature. I promise I won’t spoil anything important regarding characters or the monster.
Anyway, back to our film!
Then we meet our lovestruck and distracted young lead Charlie (Noel Clarke) and his annoyed best friend Mark (Colin O’Donoghue), driving directly to the storage facility – where his ex-girlfriend and friends are packing things themselves.
Let me jump in again – Oh bloody hell, really? They’re going to spin a dramatic angle on this whole charade? Ugh, get ready for generic glares and quips from a whiny man and cold hearted female, as Charlie assumedly now has to battle some freaky killer monster, along with his damaged emotions. Plus, the girlfriend will probably be some type of real bitch about the whole thing, making Charlie’s life a living freakin’ hell. Pass.
So anyway, Charlie and Mark get to the storage warehouse, there’s some shenanigans with the electric guy and getting the door open, and we eventually find ourselves inside the dimly lit metal labyrinth that is the facility itself. Nothing but cold steel and some yellow doors surround our characters on each side, proving to be a repetitive location with little spark of life or variation. Cue an awkward meeting between Charlie and his ex Shelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), and thus beings our expected “why did you leave me” dialogue.
So here I am, watching a monster flick with semi-reputable characters, a romantic angle I personally didn’t see necessary, bland aesthetics gracing the setting, but low and behold there is a stand-out redeeming factor I absolutely didn’t calculate – the creature itself.
What I left out of my assessment thus far is our introduction to the alien/creature hunting Charlie and company, providing the main conflict. I honestly didn’t expect much, maybe a face shot here and there, but mostly just some slimy arm protruding from ceilings and walls, pulling Houdini like movements in an effort to stay off camera. But if there’s one place Johannes Roberts really floored me in otherwise cookie-cutter execution, his handling of our creature becomes nearly flawless – for multiple reasons.
First off, our initial cordial introduction wastes no time revealing Roberts’ grotesque villain’s facial presence to the audience, refusing to hide such fantastic design work like other low-budget monster films. As time goes on, pretty much every encounter sans one or two claustrophobic chase scenes shows off practical effects work and a very intricate creature design in full view, separating itself from the cheap SyFy vibe I so wrongly expected.
But the second and more impressive point to me is the want for an actual monster to be on set and chasing our characters, opting for minimal CGI usage and maximum “dude in a bodysuit” utilization. How many times do we laugh off a hack CGI creature design which pops off the screen like a 12 year old using iMovie, shaming such inexcusably bad horror? SyFy loves their CGI Sharkodiles, Octoraptors, Llamdillos – I don’t know, just splice together two animals and sign on a Baldwin brother and you’ve got yourself the next SyFy original. But really, there’s something to be said for a creature film not needing to hide terrible CGI design, and instead flaunting a stellar physical creature creation that can interact completely with our actors. Roberts is able to evoke more fear this way, putting actors up close and personal with our alien-ish grim reaper, and gives the actors something to visibly react to instead of just green-screening some worthless death scene. Kudos Storage 24 to staying with old-school in-your-face monster horror, giving cheap technology the middle finger.
Not to mention Roberts’ film blurs the line separating true sci-fi works and horror with a surprising amount of gore, and that’s coming from someone obsessed with horror. Mentally unprepared for the first on-screen death, I honestly would have done a spit take were I drinking some tasty beverage at the Mortal Kombat style finishing move. The body count may not be unprecedented, but I have to give Storage 24 a thumbs up for the few out of this world kills Roberts is able to capture.
While sluggishly starting in a fashion horror/sci-fi fans are all too familiar with, Storage 24 takes an unexpected turn for the awesome with bouts of ooey-gooey creature horror – but still leaves us wanting a tad more. It’s hard to completely fall in love with Roberts’ monster mash because of useless relationship issues and downright despicable character work at times, but those bright red flashes of brilliance are enough to sporadically entrance eyes – and also wish the supporting material could hold a candle to what horrific moments Roberts is able to conjure.