Review: Alberta-shot Alive. a well-crafted, goopy, splattery, macabre horror story from frame one

A man awakens, caked in blood, in what appears to be a hospital bed. But what kind of hospital has dim, flickery lights, boarded-up windows, and blood stained walls? He’s tied down, and there seems to be only one person taking care of him. It appears that he’s the only patient here … except for one frightened, amnesiac woman …

Alive., from Fake Blood director Rob Grant, hits the ground running. We only know a few details, but the situation is clearly dire. The two nameless patients have no idea where they are (or even who they are), but this place just doesn’t seem right. The caretaker (they just can’t bring themselves to call him a doctor) seems to be trying to get them healthy, but if this place is legit, where are the other doctors? Nurses? Cleaning staff? Any attempt to wriggle out of their restraints are met with reprimands and an authoritarian vibe that borders on menace. We get the picture very early on. These people are prisoners. They must get out of this place.

It’s a tense little nightmare scenario, made all the more unsettling by the music, eerie lighting, and Angus Macfadyen’s amazing performance as The Caretaker. His voice is just so reasonable; so patient; in a normal hospital, he’d seem reassuring. In this nightmare place, the relaxed way he comports himself signals his madness. He coos warmly while mopping up blood, makes dad jokes while tightening restraints, and walks with a serene unhurriedness to recapture a patient who is desperately crawling towards the door.

This is a goopy, splattery, macabre horror story from frame one. Viewers will not entirely forget that they are watching a movie, which means that they’ll relax and chuckle at the earnestness of it all from time to time, but this doesn’t detract from the experience, or make the protagonist’s ordeal less compelling. I am delighted to see well-crafted genre fare like this come out of the local Alberta film industry. More, please.

Alive screens Friday, Sept. 28 at 9:15 p.m. at Globe Cinema (upstairs), and Sunday, Sept. 30, 3 p.m. at Eau Claire 3 as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. Director Rob Grant, writer/producer Jules Vincent, and producer Michael Peterson will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A on Sept. 28, and an introduction on Sept. 30. For tickets please click go to calgaryfilm.com.

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his websiteFacebookTwitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.