The Divide (2011): Claustrophobic Chaos

Directed by Xavier Gens (Hitman) and written by Karl Mueller and  Eron Sheean, The Divide stars Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Rosanna Arquette, Lauren German, Courtney B. Vance, Michael Eklund, Ashton Holmes, Iván González and Abbey Thickson as Wendi.

The film opens with German looking out a tall rise building’s stairwell window watching things that are flying through the air and landing on the ground, exploding. A crowd of people are on the stairwell and they are all rushing to get out of the building.

Seven of this “crowd” make it to the basement door which is being closed by Mickey (Biehn). He yells that there is no more room, but the seven survivors push their way in. Mickey then locks the door.

Mickey explains that he is in charge and they need to follow his orders if they want to survive. When the group first arrive they are distracted by noises outside the door. Soon after a group of men in bio-hazard suits force their way into the basement.

They are armed and they focus on Wendi (Thickson) and take her forcibly from her mother Marilyn (Arquette). After two of the men leave with the now inoculated girl in a bag the remaining men go through the basement to kill the rest of the group. Devlin (Vance) beats one to death with a steel pipe and Mickey stabs the other to death. Collecting their guns, Mickey again asserts his leadership role.

Josh (Ventimilgia), aided by Bobby (Eklund) and Adrien (Holmes) puts on one of the bio-hazard suits and goes out the door to see what is going on. When he gets outside he finds that their building is attached to a sealed tunnel which leads to a lab. There he finds Wendi stored behind a closed-door with a glass window on it and an air tube taped to her mouth.

The world is burning.

Josh is spotted as an outsider and has to flee; he shoots two of the other men in the bio-suits, drops his gun and runs back to the basement. Once he gets inside, the people outside the basement weld the door shut. Now that the group are sealed in, the already strained relationship in this disparate group of survivors falls apart.

Mistrust, paranoia, and psychosis are the rule of the day and there is a race to see who will die from radiation poisoning and who will die of violence instigated by each other.

Xavier Gens has started the film in a hurry. The bombs dropping, the mass panic, the people desperate to save themselves and their loved ones all happen quickly. So fast, in fact, that when the few people make it into the basement we are not sure who they are.

A nuclear holocaust, The Divide tells us, makes for strange bedfellows (or basement buddies) and just as in real life, we don’t know who we’ll be sharing that “last” shelter with or if we’ll even get along with them or like them. In keeping with the theme of strangers “helping” strangers, we know very little about any of the survivors.

In this little scenario, the apocalypse has put everyone under the care of the building superintendent, Mickey. He is not pleased to see these folks encroach on his safe haven. Obviously a bit of a “survivalist” Mickey, it seems, has been preparing for this kind of thing since at least 9-11.

Throughout the course of this film we are privy to murder, rape, attempted rape, torture and a lot of tension and violence. Watching this film may make you want to make sure you are armed when you find that little hidey-hole to hunker down in; especially if you have to share it with a group like this one.

This is a thought-provoking film. It asks the viewer to think about how far they would go to save themselves or a loved one. It touches lightly on taboo subjects and just how much we don’t trust strangers.

Gens tells us that not getting turned into an instant crispy critter might actually be worse than dying in the initial conflagration. Like rats that become too crowded in lab experiments, the occupants of the basement turn on each other. It doesn’t help that one (Marilyn) lost the plot when she lost her daughter and that Bobby and Josh are two giant ass-holes on legs.

The two men are as full of attitude as you can possibly be and not be in prison. You get the feeling that these two had probably been in the middle of knocking over the local 7-11 when the bombs began dropping.

Milo Ventimilgia seems to be making a “new” career of playing downright nasty characters. His Josh is the polar opposite of his nurse-turned-super-hero, Peter Patrelli in TV’s Heroes. He was a pretty unpleasant chap in the 2008 film Pathology and he is even more despicable in The Divide.

There’s no saving the cheerleader here.

Michael Biehn does his usual good job and it was especially nice to see Rosanne Arquette again. The last thing I’d seen her in was Pulp Fiction and while I’m sure she has been busy, I just haven’t seen her on-screen for ages. I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Ms Arquette; ever since I saw her in Desperately Seeking Susan.

Everyone does a great job in the film and the whole thing looks like it should. In case you were wondering the apocalypse will be dark, dank, and dirty. Food will be in short supply and you probably will not like the folks you wind up with. The movie is grim and utterly devoid of humour; which, if you think about, probably would not exist in great abundance.

Checking on IMDb, they gave it a 5.8%. I’m not arguing that this figure is wrong, but despite its dirty message, I found that it was a difficult film to watch. The only character I actually felt sorry for was Arquette’s, but that did not last long; once she ventured off into the darker reaches of her mind, I could not maintain my sympathy.

Lauren German  as Eva was the only other female in the group and she seemed too wishy-washy and  self-centred for me to really connect with and while I did not “like” Biehn’s character I could at least understand where he was coming from.

I watched this on Netflix and that is just what I’d recommend anyone else do. A more depressing and disturbing take on surviving a nuclear holocaust might be out there, but if so, I haven’t seen it. Watching the film’s descent into claustrophobic chaos is like watching a slow filthy trolley on its way to hell.

My one big tip about watching this movie is if you aren’t in a good mood don’t watch it. I think if you were depressed before the film started you might just need therapy after watching this downbeat film.

Survivalist Mickey…

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts: It’s All In the Eyes

Firstly I have to thank the lovely young lady in Waterstones at Norwich. When she found out that I was a Michael Grant fan and was looking for the second of his books dealing with the FAYZ, she was delighted. A  fan of the series as well, she asked me if I’d read Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. I had to admit that I had not. She highly recommended the book and helpfully pointed out that it was part of their ‘buy one, get one, half price’ deal. I quickly took advantage of their deal.

Thank you young lady, you didn’t lie. The book is scary and creepy. It is also very, very good.

In Jeyn Roberts’ book we follow the trials and tribulations of four teenagers who are affected by the events of the book. Their world has been rocked by earthquakes and school bombings. Some people are going crazy and killing each other. The world is in the grip of an ancient evil that has been released by the earthquakes.

The Apocalypse has started. Or as another character says, “It’s the End of Days.”

Mason’s mother has been in a car accident and while he’s at the hospital waiting to see how she’s doing, he sees that the school he’d been called from just a short time before has been obliterated by bombs. All his friends are dead and his mother is about to join them.

Aries (I’m Aries but I’m a Gemini) is on a public transport bus with two school friends when a massive earthquake causes the bus to crash and kill a lot of the passengers. Luckily for her she meets Daniel, a mysterious boy who seems to know why all this is happening. He helps Aries find one of her friends and helps her to escape the growing mayhem after the quake.

Clementine is in the town hall with her parents. They are attending a town meeting where the elders are saying that volunteers are needed to help assist in the quake stricken areas. Just as the meeting is getting under way two towns people enter cradling guns in their arms. Clementine’s parents tell her to leave the town hall. Now. Going outside, she finds the the place surrounded by armed people and she barely escapes them.

Michael and Joe are riding in Joe’s truck when a motorcycle and a car in front of them start ‘dueling‘ not surprisingly the motorcycle loses the duel and the rider is killed. His body and crashed motorbike cause a pile up on the highway. Michael and Joe crash the truck into a ditch to avoid being hit by a tanker. The police arrive in force and after telling all the drivers to get back into their cars start shooting them if they don’t act quickly enough. Michael and Joe are given a lift by another driver as their truck won’t start.

Roberts does a brilliant job of jumping from each of these four teenagers experiences and the paths they are having to take. At times the four cross paths and temporarily join forces. The people that have become affected by the quakes are known as ‘baggers’ a hunting reference. As in “they are going to ‘bag’ a deer.” People now equate the term bagger with killer. There are several different types of Baggers and the teens and the people they temporarily team up with must avoid them if they want to live.

Baggers suffer from bloodshot eyes, but, instead of their eyes being threaded with red veins, their veins are black.

The young lady who recommended this book to me said she read it at night. She was so ‘freaked’ by the book that she woke her sleeping boyfriend up and checked his eyes.

Just in case.

I had the luxury of reading in the daytime, in the park. I was surrounded by people, but Roberts yanked me out of that park just as effectively as if she’d physically grabbed me. The settings of the book, the main and secondary characters and actions of everyone felt real and scary and pretty freaking awesome.

The ending leaves you with the feeling that this is just the first of what could be a long running series. I hope so. I am dying to find out what the post apocalyptic world has in store for Mason, Aries, Clementine, Michael and that mysterious lad Daniel.

Either way, Jeyn Roberts has become another author that I will keep an eye on. Great stuff, Ms Roberts. Please, may we have some more?

Jeyn Roberts, courtesy of Google Search