Director : Scott Walker
Writer : Scott Walker
Stars : Luciane BuchananMatt WhelanMark Mitchinson
At times you’ll swear the simple yet ominously titled “The Tank” is a by-the-numbers garden variety chiller. But writer-director-producer Scott Walker peppers the film with just enough of his own seasoning to make even the familiar enjoyable. And then just when you think you have him and his movie figured out, he flips a switch and takes things in a whole different direction. And it turns out to be a pretty fun direction.
Walker’s obvious love for genre is on full display as he hops all around the horror map. You see the influences of haunted house movies. There are dashes of psychological horror. It even becomes a full-blown creature-feature with a finish full of scenes that play like odes to James Cameron’s “Aliens”. And that’s when it really hits its stride. The last 20 minutes or so is nothing short of classic B-movie joy.
Set in 1978, Ben Adams (Matt Whelan) lives in Oakland, California with his wife Jules (Luciane Buchanan) and their precocious young daughter Reia (Zara Nausbaum). Ben and Jules run a pet shop called “Raining Cats and Dogs” while also attending veterinarian school. One evening at closing time a gentlemanly lawyer with a really bad wig comes into the shop and informs Ben that he has inherited some coastal property in Oregon called Hobbit’s Bay from his late mother. The news comes as a complete surprise to Ben, as his mother never mentioned the land.
It may seem like an odd thing for Ben’s mother to forget, but as the old lawyer says “Some families have secrets. You’d be surprised at what people find out after a loved one dies.” Ben’s family’s secrets come to light once he and his family travel to Hobbit’s Bay. After a long drive their map leads them deep into a beautiful forest, down and old dirt road, and finally to an old grown-up cottage. It looks rundown, but then they see the gorgeous view.
After a night’s sleep, they start cleaning up the place for a potential sell. Inside the cottage they discover a bunch of old photos and newspaper clippings revealing a troubled family history Ben never knew about. Meanwhile outside he comes across a concrete slab with a hatch leading down to an underground water tank. Inside the tank he encounters something more shocking, more terrifying, and more deadly. Many of the answers are hinted at through some clever foreshadowing, but I’ll leave that for you to discover.
As I said, early on “The Tank” can come across as fairly conventional. Also, as with so many movies like this, we witness characters make some truly head-scratching choices – the kind that make you want to yell at the screen. And the early attempts at frights consist mostly of things we’ve all seen many times before – creaking floors, the occasional slamming door, glimpses of something lurking outside the window, etc. These scenes are well executed but pretty much standard-fare.
But then Walker makes his big turn and takes his film to a much different place. I’m intentionally dancing around it, because part of the fun for me came by going in blind. But I will say I love how bonkers it gets. It takes us in some wild directions while at the same time making me better appreciate the buildup. There are some cool effects, some gnarly kills, and a gonzo schlocky vibe that left a big dumb smile on my face (I’m still chuckling at a hilariously bad and out-of-the-blue one-liner during the film’s big finish). Sure, it has its issues. But I love when directors take big swings and tinker with genres. That’s what makes this one a winner.