Cellar Dweller (1988) or The Attic (2007).
Pod (2015) initially opts for the Freudian metaphor – the basement stands for the repressed, troubled mind and the locked door is the mental block waiting to be freed. The narrative hangs on a dual-realities hook (let's call it 'Schrödinger's Monster') and it's eerie and involving … until it isn't. The third act munsons – there is no better word for it (thanks, 1996's Kingpin) – a lot of the excellent build-up. Like the Evil Dead remake and 2012's Resolution, Keating's sci-fi horror thriller is centred on that American psychotherapy favourite, the staged intervention. Two deeply concerned siblings take it upon themselves to save an older brother from himself.
Brian Morvant is very good as paranoid schizophrenic, Martin, a guy who finds a quiet place in the country to go nuts. He rants and raves in a trashed lakeside family cottage about aliens and government cover-ups. Only, Ed (Dean Cates) and Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) - the pair sharing a relationship seemingly informed by the Johnny-and-Barbara dynamic of The Night of the Living Dead (1968) - understand it as another psychotic episode and the outré ramblings of a guy who stopped taking his meds. Martin informs his brother and sister that he captured a 'pod' (as he identifies them) and has locked the thing up in the basement. It's in there and it mustn't be let out at any cost.
Ed and Lyla's dilemma becomes: do they open the door or not? Fair play to Keating for wringing every ounce of claustrophobia from the set-up, and the depiction of mental disintegration is surprisingly poignant and well played, too. A poor third act, though, means that Pod is disjointed and falls down like a poorly built house. Not even the late but welcome appearance of actor and producer, Larry Fessenden, as a government spook, can save the day. It's a shame because the performances, the stylish direction, and what is hands down the best credits sequence since Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void (2010), are knocked off their axis somewhat.
Film4 FrightFest 2015 runs from 27-31 August. Programming, ticket details and all information can be found at www.frightfest.co.uk. You can keep up with our coverage here.
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn
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