Directed By: Billy O’Brien
Written By: Steve Clark & Josh Golga (story), Rob Green, Billy O’Brien, G.P.Taylor (screenplay)
Starring: John Lynch, Morjana Alaoui, Craig Conway, Antonia Thomas, Beth Winslet
UK Certification: 18
Running Time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Metrodome Group
UK Release Date: 18th August 2014
The old underground research facility orientated chestnut is one that has been quite prevalent in horror movies throughout the years, and so hearing that was the basis for Scintilla my enthusiasm was firmly muted. However, with the realisation that a) it was shot in Huddersfield and b) it was directed by Billy O’Brien, my despondency was markedly short lived. O’Brien’s debut feature was the superb Irish horror Isolation (2005), set in an environment of genetically mutated cattle it was bold, original and unrelentingly bleak – and despite his sophomore picture being the forgettable SyFy channel movie Ferocious Planet (2011), his stock with me was pretty high.
We open with Powell (Lynch), who we discover is rotting in a sub-Saharan African prison and being tortured gleefully by a guard who is extracting his toenails one by one with a pair of pliers. Thankfully for Powell he’s about to be freed and sent as part of a team of mercenaries to the Former Soviet Republic of Azerjestan, more specifically the East Assetia enclave about which we’re told it’s in its 5th year of a civil war. He’s been asked to lead this team into the underground facility to take out the key scientist before his research is complete. He’ll be escorting Dr. Healy (Alaoui) into the facility, and Powell is told that she will be in overall charge and is also fully briefed on what needs seizing from this shady experiment.
As Powell’s team they get to the entrance of the facility they find it to be heavily guarded, with imprisoned dissidents kept in cages lining the entrance as if to dissuade any acts of rebellion. Fortunately they have a plan which revolves around sending a car with Harris (the superb Ned Dennehy) and the computer genius Williams (Chris Ellis-Stanton) in to gain control of the camera network to find a gap in the security perimeter which will then enable the team to sneak in. Once inside they must remain hidden from the armed militia at all costs, but the longer they’re in the facility the more they become aware that there is something far more sinister lurking in the shadows.
What lifts Scintilla above its contemporaries is a variety of things, none more so than John Lynch in the lead role. The Newry born actor brings a gravitas to the film as he did in Black Death (2010) and Ghosted (2011), and that elevates the movie to give it the credibility it needs. With able support from Ned Dennehy, Morjana Alaoui and Antonia Thomas the casting is just perfect which helps overlook the obvious low budget nature of the movie. That said, the set decoration and location scouting has been done to such a degree that the look of the movie belies the micro-budget it was produced for.
With its slow, deliberate pacing, Scintilla may well irritate the band of hyperactive horror fans who expect to be jolted back into their seats with continuous shocks. For those of you who prefer your genre viewing with a more crafted and thoughtful means of exposition then this movie will undoubtedly appeal. It does have the propensity to lose its way a little in the final third, veering in and out of generic sci-fi schlock territory, but overall thanks to the additional of some strong gore and subtle VFX it manages to be a satisfying entry in the sparsely populated genre of British sci-fi / horror.
6.5 out of 10