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kilowog [Celluloid 01.11.12] post apocalyptic apocalyptic scifi horror

Year: 2011
Directors: Xavier Gens
Writers: Karl Mueller and Eric Sheean
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: kilwog
Rating: 7 out of 10

It's a simple enough concept. The bomb drops and a number of apartment dwelling neighbors find themselves holed up in a underground shelter in an effort to survive the devastating fallout that accompanies such an event. If the plot to this story sounds vaguely familiar, then you might have seen the 1961 "TWILIGHT ZONE" episode entitled "The Shelter," written by the man with the cigarette himself, Rod Serling. In fact, if you do a little digging you’ll learn that Xavier Gens' latest film, THE DIVIDE, was originally entitled none other than . . . THE SHELTER. However, after seeing it you’ll realize that a nugget of a concept and a title are all that these two pieces of entertainment share.

Set in New York, though we barely see it, the opening moments of this post-apocalyptic thriller credited to scribes Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean treat us with the blast that spurs on the events of the film. It's here that the low budget of the film exposes itself with middling special effects, but you're not deeply affected by this as it’s not what you're paying to see. You're looking forward to the chaos that ensues post-blast, and we get treated to that right away as a series of the apartment building’s inhabitants race down the steps of the high-rise with an intensity that one can only expect. It isn’t until they arrive in the aforementioned shelter, which is more of a hermetically sealed basement than anything else, that we begin to understand what and who we are watching.

Led by god of cinema Michael Biehn, who plays the building's super 'Mickey' with the grace associated with most truck drivers, the group of underground disciples includes 'Eva' (the effective and stable, Lauren German), "HEROES" Milo Ventimiglia as 'Josh', an underused Courtney B. Vance as 'Delvin,' and the still devastating Rosanna Arquette as ‘Marilyn’ as well as her young daughter 'Wendy' (Abbey Thickson). Though they all live just within a few floors of each other, the only “friend” that the survivors have in common is that of Mickey, whom none of them adore. It is he however who is quick to remind the group with unabashed annoyance that none of them would be alive if it weren't for him, providing them not only with his shelter, but his food, water, bathroom and of course, his joyful disposition.

Settling in, a good chunk of nothing happens for most of the first act of the film. The group talks, the group eats (never concerned about rationing) and the group smokes, like a lot. One would think that even with the best ventilation system in the world cigarette after cigarette might be cause for discomfort among the survivors, but it's not.

As time passes (and we're never certain just how much time does pass), some within the group begins to become unnerved, particularly Josh and his strung out buddy, Bobby (Michael Eklund); though it's his brother Adrien (TV actor, Ashton Holmes) that valiantly if ineffectively tries to keep his relative off-edge. It isn't until the shelter is attacked by unknown individuals outfitted in hardcore (keep that fallout off me) gear, and kidnap young Wendy, sealing her up in a loose-fitting hyperbaric chamber and carrying her off in a blaze of gunfire, that the real trouble for this group begins to sink in.

More uncertain than ever of their future, alliances begin to form and tensions begin to rise. Is Mickey holding out on supplies? Is there ever going to be a way out? Can Marilyn get her daughter back, let alone her sanity? Through it all, Eva takes the lead and does her absolute to keep everyone calm in spite of her weakling of a boyfriend Sam (Ivan Gonzalez), but whether it's the radiation that slipped through during the armed attack or just a bad case of cabin fever the characters begin to devolve to such a way that at times you have to say to yourself, "Wow, they went there." Rosanna Arquette clad only in ducktape getting it from behind while Ventimiglia watches is one of those moments. Ultimately it becomes a Mexican standoff, Eva versus Josh and Bobby for control the shelter. Nine neighbors enter, but how many will leave?

An atomic Stanford Prison Experiment at its core, The Divide, both entertains and excites. Mueller and Sheean's scriptwork, though rough with some of their characters at times, still manages to keep us guessing just where the story is going, especially when you realize that the fallout of this nuclear disaster will far outlive any of our characters. Director Gens manages to take a conceptually challenging piece, both logistically and creatively, and make the most of it. His camera moves deftly maneuver about in the confined spaces, making you feel the least bit claustrophobic and equally aggravated with your surroundings, desperate for a way out. Whether the film tries to bring out the worst in us, is not to be asked; instead we are rather forced to question: will we be able to find the best in ourselves as we take on the challenge of survival, not only for ourselves, but the human race.

Read Rick's review of The Divide.

Read Ben's review of The Divide.

Read Rochefort's review of The Divide.

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