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The Lair Is Not a Return to Form for Neil Marshall

I was really looking forward to The Lair. It was made by Neil Marshall, the guy who gave us Dog Soldiers and The Descent, so I went into it with pretty high hopes. Sure, his last two movies Hellboy and The Reckoning weren’t very good, but the trailer for this one looked promising. I was optimistic that the film would be a return to form for Marshall, but after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m sad to say that it left me sorely disappointed.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall, The Lair stars Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard, Jamie Bamber, and Hadi Khanjanpour. It’s about a British RAF pilot named Sinclair who’s shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan, and when they try to capture her alive, she takes refuge in a mysterious abandoned bunker. While there, she comes across some hideous half-human/half-alien hybrid monsters, but she’s able to escape and make her way to a joint American/British military base. Unfortunately, though, the monsters soon get out of the bunker too, and they have some unfinished business with her.

For the first 10 minutes or so, The Lair is pretty much just a straight-up action movie, and it’s underwhelming right from the get-go. When Charlotte is attacked by the insurgents, there are a few cool moments here and there, but for the most part, the action never really feels convincing. It’s not quite realistic enough to be taken seriously, but it’s also not over-the-top enough to be dumb fun. It’s stuck in a kind of tonal no man’s land, so aside from that handful of cool moments, it’s just not very satisfying.

Then, when Sinclair gets to the bunker, the movie thankfully gets a lot better. The place has clearly been abandoned for many years, and that creates a creepy mystery that I found pretty intriguing. I wanted to know who built this bunker, what they were doing there, and why they left, and those questions got me back on board with the film after the disappointing opening.

cover image from The Lair

What’s more, this part of The Lair also introduces us to the monsters, and they’re pretty cool. Granted, they don’t get a ton of screen time yet, but we see them just enough to whet our appetites. This introduction promises great things to come, so I was hoping that the movie would be smooth sailing from there on out.

But I was wrong. Once Sinclair arrives at the joint American/British military base, the film goes downhill very quickly. Most egregiously, the acting and the dialogue are wildly hit or miss, and unfortunately, there are far more misses than hits.

Let’s start with the acting. To be fair, some of the performances are actually pretty good. I mostly enjoyed Charlotte Kirk as Sinclair and Jonathan Howard as an American soldier named Hook, but hands down, the standout here is Hadi Khanjanpour. He plays an Afghani soldier named Kabir who helps the American and British forces fight the monsters, and he’s super charming and likable. I enjoyed seeing him whenever he was on screen, so he elevated The Lair as much as a single actor could.

But aside from those three, the rest of this cast is super disappointing. I didn’t believe any of the other characters, and that pretty much ruined the movie for me. I just couldn’t take them seriously as real people, so I was never able to get into their story. The poor performances kept pulling me out of it again and again, so I eventually got to a point where I simply couldn’t care about this film anymore.

And don’t even get me started on the dialogue. While it’s mostly tolerable most of the time, The Lair has some of the cringiest one-liners I’ve ever heard, and there are quite a few of them. They’re meant to be funny, almost Arnold Swharzenneger-esque zingers, but every single one of them falls completely flat. They make this movie a real chore to get through, and that completely kills any chance it had of overcoming its flaws.

A man being grabbed by a monster arm

Last but not least, let’s talk about the half-human/half-alien monsters. Like I said before, I liked them when they were first introduced, so I had high hopes for them in the rest of the film. But unfortunately, they’re never as good as they were that first time.

For starters, pretty much everything about them feels like you’ve seen it before in some other movie, so there’s nothing particularly unique or captivating about these creatures. Sure, they’re not exactly bad, and they’d probably be decent enough if the rest of the film were better, but since almost everything else in The Lair is underwhelming, you really notice just how mediocre these monsters are.

On top of that, the creatures don’t always look that great. There are a bunch of times when it seems almost like they’re brought to life by old-school suitmation, and as much as I love that style for kaiju movies, it feels cheap and out of place here.

So at the end of the day, as you can probably guess, I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t recommend The Lair. Granted, it’s not terrible, and if you’re a fan of bad monster movies, I think you’ll probably enjoy this one. But if you’re looking for something more, you’re not going to find it here. The poor characters, cringey dialogue, and uninspired monsters really drag this movie down. So if you’re on the prowl for some good new horror, I suggest you look elsewhere.

The Lair is currently available on VOD and in select theaters.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today. He blogs at Embrace Your Fears.

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