Science fiction

Futuristic, space, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, alien, it’s all here.

24 Hours to Die

24 Hours to Die sounds like a Rainier Wolfcastle shoot-em-up. Weird, as the original title for this 2016 Irish horror is less parody bait and more accurate to boot — Captive.

Whatever you call it, it’s a Saw retread but not nearly as sharp. Saw, for all its flaws — the annoying green-blue hues,  the wallowing in degradation — presented interesting ethical dilemmas (How far would you go in the interest of self- and familial preservation?) and examined, in gross-out fashion, human examples of the psychology of learned helplessness.

Jigsaw masterminded a deadly game for his victims to play out, in a kind of Trolley Problem* thought experiment come to life (minus the saving others rather than just yourself bit that made that one so interesting for ethicists to study).

Saw is a polarizing film to be sure, but there’s no denying its influence in jump-starting its own sub-genre.

In 24 Hours to Die, the twist is that, rather than a detail-oriented, practically omniscient killer offing everyone, there’s a virus.

As IMDb describes it: “12 strangers are held against their will as each of them must go along with the rules if they are to get the cure for a killer virus which infects them all.”

It’s a concrete bunker, and each of the victims’ wake up times are staggered, so that they occasionally turn on one another for lack of any other reasonable explanation as to how they got there. The captives are put through a series of tasks in order to procure a cure, with the added benefit of a countdown clock to make sure things zip along with some semblance of suspense.

We’ve reviewed a few “how the hell did I end up here?” movies on this site, the superior Open Grave and Awaken spring to mind, and it’s rich territory to mine, a nice way to disorient a viewer as the plot unspools.

In 24 Hours to Die / Captive, there’s no investment in any of the protagonists, as they’re backstory-less, save for a brief explanation of their occupations, as they try and determine a reason they’ve all been subjected to this scenario. This is followed by a lot of yelling at one another, and a bunch of “why are you doing this to me?” and “I just wanna see my family!” cliches.


*1/2 (out of 5)

*In the Trolley Problem, there’s a runaway train and you’re beside a lever. If you: 
a) Do nothing, the trolley kills five people on the main track (passively) allowing carnage to occur. 
b) Pull the lever, you divert the trolley onto the side track, (actively) killing one person.

The Tower

the_tower_movieLensed partly at the MacDonald Block (an Ontario Government building in Toronto), a co-production of Hamilton’s CHCH-TV and with provincial trillium logos aplenty, the only way The Tower could be more Canadian was if it condescended to Americans and referenced the ’72 Summit Series.

It’s fitting that this was filmed on Ontario government property as The Tower is a film about failed green energy technology.

The edifice in question is completely energy self-sufficient and is the headquarters of the mysterious Sandawn Corporation.

In order to conserve, or how mobster Tony Soprano would put it in New Jersey-ese, “con-soive,” the tower draws heat energy* from wherever it can find it.

So far, so good.

However, when there’s a system malfunction, the device sets its sights on human beings — and with wonderful, if cheesy results — where people disintegrate and disappear into the low budget ether. (This is made-for-TV Canadiana from 1985.)

This will resonate with anyone who’s ever blown a fuse. It’s a darn great conceit.

The first sign of trouble is when one of the building’s secretaries is availing herself of the state-of-the-art tower’s corporate swimming pool. She’s zapped trying to change the Jacuzzi settings.

Mr. Sandawn, the graying CEO, is a serial philanderer and the subject of a kidnapping plot by a male/female criminal mastermind duo, there if only to add to the body count and offer an excuse to get people into the structure off-hours. Ditto for the security guard Jerry, his girlfriend, a couple of frustrated ad men working late, and Sandawn’s suspicious missus. It actually works in the film’s favor that this building is mostly abandoned, as hundreds of salary-men rushing to the exists would’ve undermined the frights.


Anyway, when one of the ad men is burned in the leg and has to be hustled down a stairwell to escape, the building’s survivors are compelled to try and figure out a way to de-activate the tower’s killer BTU-sucking energy system, dubbed “LOLA.”

In our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons, we have a section called “Deadly Machinery,” which is the closest thematic category to this cheapie oddball we could find. Even though that chapter’s devoted to killer laundry presses, trucks, curling irons and propeller and other such conveniences, The Tower would have fit right in.

In horror films, particularly the nature-run-amok genre, events are set in motion by evil corporations. Here, it’s corporate social responsibility gone horribly wrong.

The tower is highly original, fun Saturday afternoon sci fi fare.

*** (out of 5)

[*Editor’s note: Writer/director Jim Makichuk tells us that the story was inspired by a building in Calgary that actually did draw heat from its occupants]