A decade has passed since the Allies achieved victory over the Axis Powers in World War II, but now a new arms race beginning to take shape. NATO and Allied Forces come together in a joint effort to win or at the very least stay ahead of said arms race. Taking a cue from Hitler’s playbook, these combined forces delve into the occult. With little or no true understanding of the otherworldly power they seek to utilize, there could literally be hell to pay for their meddling. And with Pandora’s Box now open, so to speak, the world faces a greater threat than it has ever known.
This is where Frances comes in. She is an enigmatic woman, who awakens in a bunker complex, with no prior memory as to who she is or why she is there. As she traverses the endless series of corridors in search of escape, she encounters a scientist named Baughman and a soldier named Briggs. Both of whom also have no recollections as to who they are or what their purpose is for being there. Together they continue on through the seemingly endless maze. Along the way they encounter and must do battle with vicious humanoid creatures, who appear to have previously been inhabitants of the complex in which the trio finds themselves trapped. The further travel the more Frances begins to recall, until she makes the realization about just how important her role is in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps she holds the key to preventing the world from being torn apart.
Matt and Taliesyn Mitchell pulled double duty on The Rizen, by directing the film based from the script they both wrote. What these two have created is an interesting story that blends vintage sci-fi horror, Lovecraftian elements and even some Resident Evil influence. It’s a film that fans of classics from the 50’s and early 60’s should appreciate. Most of the characters do not possess tremendous depth, which helps to maintain the focus on our trio and more importantly, our heroine. Now the film does tend to become repetitive, due to the endless seemingly identical corridors the characters weave their way through. If not for the flashback sequences that occur as Frances begins to recall her memories and the occasional battles with the humanoid creatures, the monotony would become a real issue. With the peculiar yet entertaining way the different elements that made up this film were intermingled, one could almost re-title it The Call of Rizen-dent Evil. It really reminded me of some films that emerged during the initial rise of the nuclear era, but with an occult twist rather than one lending to aliens or irradiated monsters.
The acting was a bit exaggerated and melodramatic at times, but it really worked because of the film’s mimicry of that aforementioned vintage style. In the role of Frances, Laura Swift gives us a strong, confident and intelligent heroine. She is clad in utilitarian garb, much like “Rosie the Riveter“, and possesses the same “We can do it!” attitude. I, for one, appreciated the use of a female lead in this film, thus breaking with the patriarchal stigma of the time period represented in the film. Christopher Tajah’s portrayal of Baughman was that of a somewhat meek and effete scientist, who found it within himself to break from his shell when things took a turn for the intense. As Briggs, Patrick Knowles offers up a soldier who, despite being something of a tough guy, has a particularly strong sense of integrity and morality. These three play well off of each other displaying a good chemistry. Many of the supporting cast gave rather cliche portrayals of their character types. But this is more out of necessity, since there is little time to develop some of these character types otherwise. A few other familiar faces viewers may notice are Sally Phillips, Tom Goodman-Hill and Bruce Payne.
Visually the film was actually a bit to crisp and clean for my liking. I would have liked a bit of grain, in order to give it that vintage film appearance. But I did like the use of image distortion when Frances has flashbacks about events which are supposed to have occurred prior to the beginning of the events within the film. As for practical effects, they were done very well. There were some moments when a bit more blood or gore could have been used, but it didn’t have any real effect on my overall enjoyment of the film. Digital effects could have been a bit better, especially one in particular towards the end of the film. But given the fact that this film was something of a throwback to 50’s vintage horror and sci-fi, I would like to have seen practical effects all around if possible.
Suffice to say, I enjoyed The Rizen. It’s a film that was able combine classic and contemporary elements without compromising the historical era in which it takes place. If you’re a person who likes your horror contemporary and completely effects driven, it may not be for you. And if it’s not, I have NO sympathy for you whatsoever. Sometimes we have to offer proper recognition to the films that came before, and this film does that. 7 / 10
The Rizen was an Official Selection for the 2017 SCI-FI-LONDON FILM FESTIVAL, where it made its world premiere on May 7th. It appears that a sequel, The Rizen 2, is currently in the works. So my Little Monsters, we will do our best to keep you informed of any news that aRizes (see what I did there) concerning the upcoming sequel.