Guinea Pigs (15)
Ostensibly a shop window for the emerging talents of students at the National Film and Television School Guinea Pigs does a great deal with not very much.
A single location, a tight ensemble and some impressive work with light and sound mark out writer/director Ian Clark, making his feature debut, as a talent to watch.
The tale is brutally told. A group of strangers arrives at a remote laboratory and testing centre to trial a new drug. They are given little information other than they will have no contact with the outside world whilst the trial is in progress.
They are a mixed bunch and include a journalist researching a story and a couple of lab rats who have spent years on the circuit and know how to deal with isolation.
Right away cocky fitness fanatic Jed suffers some kind of fit. Asif wants to go home, especially when he sees another volunteer make a run for it. Veteran Marty (Steve Evets from Looking for Eric) tells a creepy tale of terror about a previous test, and how it was hushed up. Thus the groundwork is laid for the hours to come…
Soon the head doctor expires in a bloody heap, the victim of a murderous attack from one of his volunteers. A terrified security guard bangs on the external doors begging to be let in. The reason becomes clear: everyone who took the drug will be affected as it slowly turns them into raging psychotics.
At its most basic Guinea Pigs is a haunted house chiller with a group of hapless victims whittled down one by one by monsters that pounce from the shadows. But it aspires to be more than that. Clark’s script hints at his own prejudices towards testing centres and urges restraint towards those who would give up their bodies.
Aficionados of horror will see the affected maniacs as a cross between zombies and the infected of 28 Days Later. The scares are hit-and-miss but Clark manages some nervy jolts such as a crazed woman caught in the flash of a camera.
Not exactly brilliance on a budget, but worth a look.