Storage 24 is one of those films that I want to give more credit to than is probably due. The idea is a solid one: A government plane crashes over London, freeing some sort of alien beasties and our heroes are trapped in a huge storage warehouse with one of the monsters.
That’s a great set-up. It allows for your classic dark corners and shadowy thrills as the barely-seen monster grabs people one-by-one and our main characters pull together to survive the night. However, in a misguided attempt to force some drama into the situation, writers Davie Fairbanks, Marc Small, and Noel Clarke (who also stars), give us characters who are barely likeable to begin with, with a few who actually get worse as the film goes on.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but none of the characters are charismatic enough to carry this sort of narrative weight and ultimately the betrayals seem small, petty, and included purely to provide conflict in the plot rather than to reveal and develop character. And the superficial character conflicts that are forced into the plot just barely provide more depth than we get with the strange mandible-faced alien monster that is hunting and killing them for no discernible reason (other than that’s just what monsters do in this sort of film, right?).
The performances are acceptable, with no one really dropping the ball. Everyone plays their bastard character like a bastard, but it’s all just cardboard and there’s no way to connect to any of them emotionally. We’d almost root for them to die, except we’re not engaged enough to even care.
Noel Clarke’s Charlie gets all the spotlight, turning from a whining, hurt man-child into someone willing to die to save his ex (although even that is done in a whining, hurt man-child kind of way).
There’s a brief bright spot in the middle of the film, when bizarre eccentric, David (Ned Dennehy) shows up. He’s been living in a storage shed, hiding from his ex-wife, and his paranoid delusions sync up (sort-of) with reality when he figures out that whatever’s happening outside is some sort of governmental conspiracy type deal. Sort of.
As the film moves into the home-stretch, director Johannes Roberts (who is responsible for a string of poorly-received low-budget British horror films over the past few years) hits his stride and suddenly it’s like we’re in another film. This is mainly due to the fact that all the horrible forced drama of the earlier part of the movie is shoved to the side for more straight-up action. It’s not great action, but at least we don’t have to watch the characters emote at each other anymore.
In the end, however, as we pull back and our survivors realize that the night of horror they’ve just made it through is only just beginning, as London is under full-scale alien attack, the failure of imagination (and, I’m assuming, budget) that hampered the film becomes all-too clear. There was an interesting story to be told here, but instead we were locked in a dark, cramped space with shitty, self-obsessed people, none of whom really even grow from the experience.
If there’s an invasion going on by aliens who are intelligent and advanced enough to fly spaceships and bomb the shit out of Earth, why not utilize that idea instead of falling back on clichés and murky, self-absorbed character work? Why not inject that idea into the narrative and allow it to resonate, creating a larger picture and a threat that isn’t so singular and boring?
Money has to have been an issue. That’s the main reason most films of this sort stick to one or two locations – sets where they can control the lighting, where they can emphasize detail work without having a lot of real variety in the design, where the emphasis can be on quick shocks, bursts of gore, and character interaction to move the plot along. Storage 24 does all of this – and to be honest, the gore is very nicely done and the alien monster design is decent (if derivative) – but misses the mark thanks to a weak script and unimaginative direction.
If this sounds interesting, despite the warnings, I’d recommend another film from a few years ago that touches on similar basic ideas, with a similar minimal budget and talented actors, but pulls them off so much better it’s ridiculous. In 2006, Eduardo Sánchez wrote and directed Altered and it is a joy. Rent that instead.
Storage 24 was released in the UK back in June, but hit American theaters on January 11. It is also available on VOD.