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Review: Warhouse

The low-budget, high-concept CannesMarket monster film has 'plenty of ideas to fill up 80 tight minutes of suspense.'

 

While the prestigious Cannes Film Festival is going on, other films are screening in the CannesMarket, hoping to attract buyers from the worldwide pool of distributors attending in May. You can imagine what type of low budget films would cast such a wide net, and you’d be right to count on some genre fare, and hopefully some fun stuff. We were privy to a few titles from the Cannes Market so we could report on what’s going on in France.

Warhouse is exactly the right way to do a low budget movie. It’s one guy stuck in a house. You’ve got one location and you just exhaust all its possible uses. Writer/director Luke Massey has plenty of ideas to fill up 80 tight minutes of suspense.

Marine AJ Budd (Joseph Morgan) wakes up in a plain white bedroom, goes downstairs where a sandwich is waiting for him. Then a monster (William Troughton) attacks him. Budd realizes he can’t get out of the house, neither through doors nor windows. Every day Budd wakes up to the same routine, fights the monster again, and delves into the house trying to find a way out.

This has the feeling of the original Saw, just trying to figure out solutions with the elements in the room, or in this case a whole house. In a way it’s like a Cube more grounded in reality. Of course the monster and unseen manipulation make it supernatural but it’s not a space cube.

All the weird sh*t they throw in the house is really cool. There’s the monster, the unbreakable windows and doors and the mysterious food, all simple real world elements. There’s also books with blank pages, canned food that’s only filled with sawdust and a package of what looks like French fries but Budd doesn’t eat it. Again these are all tangible things in the house, but different enough to make it a trippy psychological thriller.

The film establishes its rules too. Maybe it spells them out a little too clearly, because it’s enough that we see the routine go on for a few days. But there’s a device that spells them out: Budd finds letters written by the previous prisoner (Matt Ryan) which may seem redundant, but on the plus side we see more clever ingenuity from a different survivor in flashbacks.

The descent further into this contained world is gripping. Budd finds useful stuff, makes weapons and armor but also devices to entertain himself. He’s some kind of MacGyver. That ingenuity alone is compelling to me, both from a character standpoint (what do you do all day in an empty house?) and a filmmaking standpoint (what do you fill a movie with?).

The film shows its budget in a few regards. The monster makeup looks a little homemade, but the fact that it’s a makeup creation and not CGI is refreshing. It’s not the best guy in a suit/prosthetics we’ve ever seen. Some of his features are a mess but he’s a monster, he’s not supposed to be pretty.

Flashbacks to Budd’s military experience don’t look like a war zone. They look like they were shot in a backyard. They’re brief though, only a few seconds each, and they stay in close-up.

It’s a good performance vehicle for Morgan as Budd goes increasingly crazy. I mean, it’s not Cast Away but it’s respectable. And there’s no copout volleyball. I guess the letters from the previous prisoner are this movie’s Wilson, but they make sense in the story. It’s something Budd would find in that situation.

10 years ago I could see Warhouse getting a theatrical run, though these days it’s more likely to be DVD and VOD. That’s still a compliment. It’s a worthwhile film that should find its audience. It’s just the audience exists in different niches now. Maybe we’ll see it on the festival circuit. I love this kind of one character/one room situation and Warhouse is a fine entry to that canon.