I really wasn’t expecting much from this. I’d read the synopsis and expected some sort of ameteur shlock-fest with little in the way of creativity or story but wow was I surprised. This film is actually a cool horror/thriller with a sick yet clever premise and a wholly unexpected series of events.
A large group of people somehow find themselves transported by a bright white light to some undisclosed location, from there they hear their own voices explaining the rules. Basically they have to keep running, stay on the path, follow arrows and not get lapped. It’s like some modern twist on a ‘Battle Royale’ situation and it works a lot. Throughout we’re fed stories of different characters from before they arrive at this racing track, there’s a young woman trying to overcome an illness, two army vets, a cyclist and so on.
The music, first of all, is properly good and adds to the thrilling tension of the film which once it starts up doesn’t really let go. It makes the whole predicament feel even more unnerving and this is one of those films that succeeds in making you question what the hell you’d do in that scenario. The sound effects go alongside nicely with gruesome splats for deaths and in a house there’s strobe lighting that works in sync with some crackling effects making the whole atmosphere come across more eerily and dangerous.
This is the type of movie where you’re guaranteed to get selfish and abhorrent people and there’s plenty in here. Characters start fighting back and turning on each other and after the same blowing up deaths over and over again we now get a new switch in tension as people play dirty. It becomes a film showing the grit of human nature and the test of spirit in us all. Two deaths are unexpected just because you see quite a lot of them and then suddenly they’re out of the game…a bold but great move in showing anything can happen. The addition of children and a pregnant lady also racks up the suspense as you fear the fate of these innocent souls.
The weirdest thing about all of this is the payoff appearing in the last part of the third act, which I still don’t know if I like or not. It’s unexpected so that’s good but it’s defintley strange and throws this whole arena like race into the stratosphere of what is really going on. A case of maybe something too far to wrap up the plot?
There’s actually some touching and sad moments found in this bloody story, with a priest commenting on the whole thing as purgatory, a neat little idea that relates to staying on the narrow path to find God. There’s also a sweet moment when we’re introduced to the eight month gone lady telling the story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to her unborn child. It cuts nicely to a character resembling the cowardly lion and the race becomes a metaphor for the yellow brick road, also her saying “there’s no place like home” is damn emotional, I wasn’t expecting something neat and smart like that in a story that you expect to be standardly gory and bad – which in fact it isn’t. Yes, there’s blood and other injuries or deaths but that isn’t the main point of all this. There’s an intelligent quality of questioning us through terror and challenging us as a human race to win. The ‘human race’ also becomes a different tool of meaning when we get to the final act.
An adrenaline pumped film with thrills and smarts that show some horrors can still produce something not seen before even if that last vision is something so out there it feels like it belongs in a separate movie.