Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Pod Review – What’s Hiding in the Basement?

At a slim 78-minutes, Mickey Keating’s Pod doesn’t hang about and it’s all the better for it.

Lauren Ashley Carter and Dean Cates play siblings drawn together by a mysterious voice mail from their unstable ex-military brother, Martin (Brian Morvant), who’s currently spending some time in the family lake house.

The voicemail implores them to stay away but, fearing for his wellbeing, they make the trip out of town. They soon find that any lingering problems have exacerbated and, in his rambling, he speaks of the murder of the family dog, by (the/a) ‘pod’ . . . that he somehow managed to trap in his basement.

We’re lead (rather unsubtly, it must be said) to question Martin’s sanity. However, as things progress, there seems to be some truth to his story . . . but what exactly is the ‘pod’?
The titular MacGuffin hangs over the whole movie ominously, manipulating the drama and influencing the characters’ actions. Keating finds a great deal of success toying with the audience’s fear of the unseen, which leads to some unexpectedly tense sequences in the third act. It’s not uncommon for genre films such as this to botch their final thirds, but Pod’s finale really works.

Much of Keating’s technique here is straight out of ‘Horror 101’ but, hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He uses the slasher movie staple of the stalking POV shot to great effect, and ‘seeing’ things through the reactions of the characters again works well by encouraging the audiences’ imaginations to get ahead of them.


But, that’s not to say it’s all copy-and-paste. There are a couple of uses of a strobing effect that deliver some jarring jump scares. I’m sure any horror aficionado could reel off countless uses of the same technique, but these moments really stood out for me. As did the frosty exterior cinematography. While most of the action takes place within the lake house itself, Keating and his cinematographer (Mac Fisken) make good use of the striking setting, especially in the well-crafted cold open. These more distinct moments are important and do a great job of balancing out the genre tropes and elevating Pod above many of its peers.

Alongside a few neat camera tricks, Keating also features a couple of long takes that hint at a technical flair that I hope to see more of in his future work. These extended shots work well, and Carter and Cates do well to match up to them. There are a couple of more ropey moments of performance – especially during some of Morvant’s ‘crazy person’ over-acting – but the three leads ultimately hold their own.


The brisk running time does leave a subplot or two hanging. But they’re mostly superfluous details and the movie, as a whole, doesn’t feel their loss. Likewise, the hints towards a deeper meaning are mostly forgotten about in the tension of the finale. There’s talk of military testing (on both human subjects and on far more nefarious victims) and other conspiracy theories, with the latter being an element the film could live without.

However, any drifts of concentration are short-lived as Keating ensures our focus is soon restored to the creepy premise and, ultimately, Pod is a well-made, stripped-down chiller, with a handful of well-executed jump scares. It’s worth a watch.

★★★

Pod is out now on UK VOD services!

Screener and images provided by Alarm Pictures. Thank you!