The year is 2021. In an unspecified city, an unexplained war rages outside while the action here focuses on a bunker-like prison in which twelve strangers find them confined. The motley group includes middle-aged butcher Frank (Martin Nolan), pensive Dee (Emma Gunning), resourceful Chris (Martin Beanz Warde), burly baldie Lee (Rob James Capel), petrified young Sarah (Rachael O'Connor), cocky Dave (Nic Furlong), surly businessman Roger (Bernie Coen), even surlier hoodie Jack (Camille Yourell), big-busted Aoife (Frankie Moran), aggressive hospital orderly Alan, mousy Jenny (Bernie Kavanagh), and smiling factory worker Dean (Mark Hutchinson).

Each of this disparate bunch are at a loss as to where they are, why they're there or how they got there. None of them know each other. Just as internal bickering threatens to undo any sense of reasoning, a mobile 'phone rings. Locating it within their sparse concrete confines, the group listen intently as the robotic voice on the other end of the line explains how they will all remain encased for the next twenty-four hours. Only one will survive the various tasks set out by their captor throughout the night.

The first task, they're told, is for Roger to kill Jack within the hour. Naturally everyone is mortified at this possibility. When one of the group attempts to leave via a door in the corner of the room, they're shot dead by unseen assailants. By this time aware that they're every move is being monitored via CCTV cameras, the survivors attempt to work together to find a way out of their predicament.

Of course, this is easier said than done. As time passes and the collective's mind-set becomes more fraught, it's inevitable that lives will be taken. Either as a direct consequence of the mysterious telephone caller's tasks, or due to the virus that each group member has unwittingly been injected with. Cue paranoia along the lines of THE THING, and interspersing onscreen text updating us every time someone snuffs it - a la BATTLE ROYALE.

The premise itself clearly echoes SAW and its numerous sequels. It's fair to say therefore that CAPTIVE - even down to its generic title - doesn't score highly in terms of originality.

Shot over the course of forty-eight hours, the film utilises a single setting (bar a couple of brief external shots of fairly impressive computer-generated imagery) without ever appearing overly stagey. The camerawork is the strongpoint here, tightly edited and constantly moving in a bid to keep the momentum flowing, along with canny colour correction added in post-production which lends events an ambient blue hue throughout.

The trim 74-minute running time works in the film's favour too, knowingly avoiding stretching out a thin premise too far.

Before I miscast this thing as a masterpiece though, I need to inform readers of the often terrible acting and a script of rather laughable dialogue. On top of these shortcomings, the audio has been recorded badly and the score is hilariously melodramatic - it's often looped, and sounds like it's been lifted from some ill-fitting CD of stock action movie soundtracks.

CAPTIVE comes to UK DVD courtesy of Left Films. It's presented uncut and in its original 16x9 widescreen ratio. Picture quality is decent for a no-budget film, offering fair black conveyance and decent colours. Detail is okay if hardly profound.

English 2.0 is more of a mixed bag. I'm sure the dialogue won't have been recorded on the greatest equipment; as a result, its clarity fluctuates throughout. We can still follow the action, but there are undeniably times where the aforementioned looped score threatens to totally overwhelm the actor's lines.

A static main menu page leads into an animated scene selection menu which offers access to the film by way of 11 chapters.

Extras begin with a short film entitled ANCHORS. This 9-minute affair comes from the same Hoods Up production team behind the main feature, but is directed by Michael Pearce (who acted as visual effects co-ordinator on CAPTIVE). It tackles themes of racism and diversity and is hampered by some woeful acting. But the seed of something good is here, if you can look past the zero-budget trappings.

We also get the original 91-second "theatrical trailer" for CAPTIVE. Don't know about you, but any cinema run this film may have enjoyed completely passed me by...

Finally there are trailers for THE DEVIL'S WOODS, SCREAM PARK, BIND, CLASSROOM 6 and JONAH LIVES. The disc is defaulted to open with the latter trio of previews.

CAPTIVE, which comes from writer-director Stephen Patrick Kenny (who also gave us THE PIGMAN MURDERS), is flawed but watchable. It held my attention - though I'm not sure whether that was because of its weaknesses or despite them.

Either way, it looks fine on Left Films' DVD.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Left Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review