This is a strange one.
Set in an alternate 1955, where the British Empire is in the midst of the Second Hundred Years war, it is a world where 1980s era computers and VHS decks exist side-by-side with Boer war era uniforms and zeppelins. Three men have been alone in a remote Arctic outpost for a very long time (it might be five years, it might be three – or have they always been there?), listening to enemy radio signals.
They also have to maintain the top secret Omegan engine, a horrible thing which seems to cause nightmares for the crew. It might contain some sort of Lovecraftian monstrosity – and it is always watching them through the engine’s glowing porthole.
And then one day the warning light goes off without warning, and strange things – from exploding hares to monstrous arctic spiders – start happening all around them.
This is a slow, creepy film which gradually builds up its weird atmosphere and mounts to an increasingly insane climax.
One of the things I like best about the film is the nice little comic touches that keep showing up, from the incredibly fake mustache worn by the General on the television (perhaps the equivalent of a pharaoh’s beard), to a deliberately comic stop motion spider, to their orders to carry out the secret “Plan 9”. Far too often we forget that absurdity – even out and out comedy – can actually increase the creepiness of a story, thanks to the jarring effect of laughing at such moments.
I suspect that most gorehounds will be dissatisfied with this one, as there is little blood in sight (even if we do see a body that has been lasered in half and frozen that way). However, the film’s creepy atmosphere reminds me more than a little of Kubrick’s The Shining, which may be deliberate, now that I think of it: both films deal with strange visions and bizarre fantasies and take place in an isolated, snowbound setting. And frankly, I think any horror film that gets under you skin and sticks with you is better than one that relies on shock.
The ending comes with somewhat of an explanation of what has been happening, yet ends on a note of ambiguity about what has just happened – or is is all about to start again? I suspect that it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it seems fitting for such a strange little film.
And perhaps that sums up this one: it may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does what it does with cool professionalism and will be remembered long after everyone has forgotten Jason Goes to Washington or whatever they’re going to call the next one.