Xavier Gens knows how to deliver the visceral terrifying experience, Frontier(s) was one of the most harrowing brutal journeys you’ll experience and one of the many reasons why New Wave French horror is so popular. Post-apocalyptic films many have tried many have failed reasons we may not know why as we don’t or ever want to know what life is like. Many filmmakers have presented their visions but never calling it a true vision what life could be like, THE DIVIDE is Xavier Gens vision and if this was ever to become true you’ll pray your one of the lucky ones who die in the blast.
As an onslaught of nuclear missiles from an unknown assailant fall on New York a small group of tenants find refuge in their building’s bunker-like basement which was already occupied by the building’s caretaker Mickey (Michael Biehn) just as he was closing the rooms steel door. Surprisingly the room is well stocked with supply’s, the days slowly pass by but what starts as a sanctuary for the survivors starts to resemble a living hell and Mickey’s grip on controlling the group loosens by the day. Apart from the threat of the fallout dust getting in terror strikes the group as the shelter comes under attack by mysterious armed assailants in protective suits with motives unknown, have no interest in the adults they take Wendi (Abby Thickson) the groups only child.The group unite to fight the assailants but to no prevail, but when the supply’s become very low the survivors start to feel more trapped as the prospect of been rescued becomes less likely. As death waits for them on the outside tensions start to flare as madness creeps over them with self-preservation there only option. Power struggles lead to physical, psychological and sexual torment as they start to lose grip on their sanity and most of all their humanity.
After the mediocre Hitman those looking for Gens to go back to his roots of brutality, unexpected depravity like Frontier(s)The Divide does provide that welcome return. The opening scene you can’t get anyone terrifying watching the destruction of New York City with mushroom clouds popping behind every skyscraper of the city’s skyline which essentially giving Gens the trigger he needed to strip the morality and insanity of the surviving group. Whilst many may believe the biggest horror of an attack is the attack itself in The Divide the aftermath ends up been for more disturbing and savage as everything we love wilted away in the attack or fallout. What this film does do is highlight the mindset of the survivors and lack of basic qualities of surviving an attack as the film and as the film progresses rational thinking is quickly replaced by barbaric actions of the survival of the fittest.
The Divide in lament terms is not a film you look to get the same entertainment value as watching a straight up action film, comedy any feel good movie. The entertainment value in The Divide will be found in the shock value gripping the audience dragging them into the middle of the chaos watching the gradual descent of the survivors which make you feel as if you are one of the group as well. This film has the same problem as Peter Jackson had with The Lovely Bones, many films fan acceptance of the filmmaker’s vision. Jackson’s vision of heaven was heavily criticised, in The Divide Gens was criticised for his post-apocalyptic vision as been unrealistic, the question I ask is “how do you know?” How do you know a post-apocalyptic earth would be like as it’s in The Divide?Have you experienced a nuclear attack? This film dives into the unknown and like any new experience, the unknown of what lies ahead scares us more and we appreciate through the characters.
Michael Biehn is the star of the show unreluctant, paranoid who’s quite hard to read if his motives were for the good of the group or not (if your eagled eyed there is clues throughout out that may help you decide). It was also good to see Milo Ventimiglia playing a more ‘Jock’ type character instead of the squeaky clean middle-class goody two shoes but now an alpha type male. Rosanna Arquette really gives a heartbreaking performance as Marilyn the over protective mother to eventually becoming the sex toy for the dominant alpha males when the shit hits the fan but in all, it was good performances from all the cast.
Despite the plotholes along with the odd occasion leave te bunker (though a positive at the same time) The Divide is not a bad film as some critics made it out to be. Staying mostly within the confines of the basement bunker it has created a claustrophobic bleak hell with the fear of the unknown been the most dangerous thing here.What also works really well here is not actually knowing who is responsible for the nuclear attack but focusing on the characters like the way they did for John Hillcoat’s The Road, we’re not interested in who or why they did it’s how the group survives so when the mysterious suited assailants come in they question there is what they are doing not why are they not rescuing us. The film grips you from start to finish confronting the darkest depths if human desperation, making you wish you were one of the lucky ones who died in the blast. The Divide isn’t a perfect film but it’s not the worst but entertaining in a morbid type of a way
Horror, Sci-fi | France/USA, 2011 | 18 | 14th May 2012 (UK) | Momentum Pictures | Dir.Xavier Gens | Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Rosanna Arquette, Lauren German, Michael Eklund | Buy The Divide On DVD