Packing some amusing surprises wrapped inside standard genre formula, 'Storage 24' is a brisk and decently entertaining creature feature loaded with well-meaning characterization and ample amounts of bloody gore. The movie's strongest aspects come from filmmakers favoring practical effects and a stunt person inside a rubber suit over the now-common practice of CG wizardry, which surprisingly adds a touch of apprehension. Yet, a few patches of tenable action and suspense are not enough to salvage this sci-fi horror from being nothing more than a cute but still boringly tame mechanical toy dog.
The reference to the battery-operated dog comes from a scene in which one character fortuitously discovers that the pint-sized toy baffles and distresses an alien monster wanting to kill him and his friends. So technologically advanced and superior is this ravenous creature that it's easily distracted by a toy that only a toddler could find entertaining. At one point, the friends go so far as to decorate the dog with several Chinese fireworks, giving it explosive might for combating the foreign marauder. We can only assume the filmmakers intended such silliness as an attempt at humor, to break the endless cat and mouse chase with a brief laugh.
Unfortunately, it's not the least bit funny and barely falls short of pure idiocy given the movie's better aspects. 'Storage 24' is that toy dog, strapped with layers of fireworks and ready to explode into high gear at any moment. Sadly, the best audiences are offered in terms of exciting pyrotechnics is only the idea and anticipation of seeing the mechanical toy detonated. Sure, the concept of a voracious escaped monster using a self-storage facility as its hunting grounds while friends confront some personal issues sounds cool and clever, but afterwards, we're left with a big mess to clean up and likely permanent damage done to the lungs.
Granted, director Johannes Roberts uses the storage warehouse effectively for generating an eerily claustrophobic environment. While characters scrabble about in search of an exit (from the facility and from the movie itself), the creature scurries overhead like an oversized spider that's been crossed-bred with a gigantic praying mantis. With dark, gloomy cinematography by Tim Sidell, the metallic walls and spookily desolate corridors give the story a droll 'Alien'-like feel, but lacks the intelligent, fear-inducing inventiveness of Ridley Scott's horror classic.
On a more interesting note, however, Roberts uses the maze-like hallways of the warehouse as a metaphor for the emotional travails of the characters. The small group of friends trapped inside a Storage 24 when a military cargo plane crashes is forced to confront each other after a recent break-up — a plot very reminiscent of Abrams' far superior 'Super 8.' Noel Clarke, from the 'Doctor Who' revival series and who also takes co-writing credits for this script, stars as the insecure ex-boyfriend who's nice enough to figure out an escape plan for his ex (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), her best friend (Laura Haddock) and his best friend (Colin O'Donoghue). Without the help of a Time Lord, Clarke does fine at proving himself the courageous hero in the face (literally!) of a terrifying alien foe.
One problematic and rather disconcerting element within the movie, however, is the underlining patriarchal, nearly misogynist subtext of the narrative. Much of the action is used essentially in celebration of maleness, where instinctive brawn eventually reigns supreme over intelligent problem-solving. The only women ever seen throughout are either random pretty objects to ogle, bitchy whiners wanting out, backstabbing two-timing slags or simply relegated to damsels in distress requiring a man to rescue them. At certain points, manhood and masculinity is questioned, and the two female characters are conveniently silenced while the boys squabble over who is bigger.
For all its potential and other seemingly entertaining parts, 'Storage 24' is brought to a leaden, sluggish pace by this awkward aspect, giving the creature-feature plot a dissatisfying and ultimately appalling histrionic aftertaste. In the end, the mechanical toy dog doesn't explode; it implodes into itself from a fuse of senseless and imprudent chauvinism.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Magnolia Home Entertainment brings 'Storage 24' to Blu-ray on a Region A Locked, BD50 disc inside the standard blue keepcase. After skipping over several trailers, viewers are taken to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Storage 24' arrives to Blu-ray with an excellent yet not very attractive 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The reason for this appears deliberate on the part of the filmmakers, apparently intending the ugly look to complement the plot. The overall palette favors the teal-and-orange aesthetic with a heavy yellow push, and the majority of colors leave a great deal to be desired. Primaries are mostly accurate, except reds are much darker, almost black. Contrast also falls on the lower end of the grayscale, giving the movie a very dour and gloomy overcast. This effects colors and flesh tones, making actors seem pretty sickly and unhealthy.
The rest of the 1.85:1 image offers incredibly rich, deep blacks, which is great since the majority of the movie is immersed in darkness. Shadows penetrate deep into the screen while maintaining excellent clarity of background information and providing the video with strong dimensionality. Details are crisp and resolute, exposing every slimy pore of the alien's body and the tiniest imperfection of the storage units. Fine lines are clean and distinct, and facial complexions show good, lifelike textures, especially during the many close-ups. The only thing holding the presentation back is a hint of banding and posterization in some scenes, possibly due to filming with HD cameras, but otherwise looks excellent and true to the intentions of the filmmakers.
The sci-fi horror flick also arrives with a pleasing and fairly energetic DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, using the back speakers to amusing effectiveness. Since the story is set inside a storage building, the design is mostly silent and devoid of typical ambient effects. Instead, the silence adds a subtle eeriness to the movie so that when the rears are employed to suggest the movement of the alien creature, the soundfield really comes alive and is enveloping. Each sound is crystal-clear and delivered with excellent directionality while the monster flawlessly moves from one side of the room to the other.
The majority of the lossless mix is contained in the fronts where dialogue reproduction is consistently intelligible and precise, even during the movies loudest moments. Channel separation is excellent and well-balanced, creating a wide and spacious soundstage. The mid-range is also stable and dynamic, providing rich clarity in the higher frequencies. Low bass doesn't quite deliver the commanding punch and authority that the image suggests, but it comes with a healthy and hearty oomph to the action sequences. Overall, it's a very enjoyable high-rez track.
Despite picking up in the second half, 'Storage 24' remains a sluggish and rather boring creature-feature with an inherently problematic element at the plot's core. Director Johannes Roberts does what he can with the material and uses the maze-like corridors of the self-storage facility effectively, but the movie is ultimately a forgettable genre entry. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent picture quality and an enjoyable audio presentation. Supplements appear plentiful, but they're quite short and of little interest, making the overall package a rental at best.