The lastest entry into the mad-doctors-gone-mad sub-genre, Alive celebrated it’s Toronto premiere at the the 7th annual Blood in The Snow Canadian Film Festival on November 23rd. Directed by Rob Grant, Alive is written by Chuck McCue & Jules Vincent, and stars Thomas Cocquerel (In Like Flynn), Camille Stopps (TV’s Guilt Free Zone), and Angus Macfadyen (Saw III).
Although the film travels a well worn path, it is a little more than your run of the mill captive vs captor story. It falls into the same traps as all captive films but uses the format to tell a story more intriguing than your average survival movie. The motivations of our villain are not present right away. We get a sense that his plans aren’t as simple as a shaky handed surgeon playing pretend on unsuspecting victims, but what could this mad man want?
“Alive boasts a pretty impressive performance from Angus Macfadyen [who is] as witty as he is wicked”
Alive follows two characters who find themselves the captives of a mad doctor. Tied to their beds in an abandoned hospital, the man and woman have no memories of where they are, what happened to them, or even their own names. It’s as though their memories had been erased by the mad doctor who appears to administer shots, redress bandages, and spoon feed them nutritional gruel. Quick flashes of their past appear as time goes on but they have no memories outside of this hospital of horrors.
The Doctor, known only as The Man, is highly intelligent and although his practices are unorthodox (and insane) he does seem very invested in keeping his captors alive and well. Sure, he may be forced to sew someone’s mouth shut or remove a leg to stop them from escaping, but he saved these people’s lives! And the good doctor puts his patient’s health above all else. Unless of course these two unfortunate, wandering souls are nothing more than a cruel and unusual experiment. Escape seems almost entirely out of the question, and happy endings aren’t exactly a prescription that can be filled at any corner store.
An interesting take on the captive/captor sub-genre, Alive boasts a pretty impressive performance from Angus Macfadyen as a classically sinister mad doctor. His bedside manner is top-notch, but he is as witty as he is wicked. We know even less about him than we do our mysterious main characters, but immediately comes across as a lived-in character.
The film does fall into an understandably tedious pattern of unconsciousness bookend by medical torture. For a short period, we move from scene to scene of the doctor taking common medical assistance a step too far, before administering 20 cc’s of fast-forward juice to the next sadistic set piece. In these moments, the story progresses at a much slower pace than the rest of the movie but does pick back up again for a surprising 3rd act.
There was a moment where, in my head, I predicted how the back-half of the movie was going to play out. It’s not a snobby brag though, it was just a passing thought that crept into my thoughts. I quickly dismissed the idea because it sounded so crazy and there was no way, I thought, that the movie would even try to go that far. Although I was pleasantly surprised, I should not have underestimate the storytelling in Rob Grant’s Alive.
“The film does fall into an understandably tedious pattern of unconsciousness bookend by medical torture […] but does pick back up again for a surprising 3rd act”
The Blood In The Snow Film Festival is a showcase of Canadian horror, genre, and underground cinema. More than that, it also serves as a summit for indie filmmakers looking to gain insight into how to navigate the tricky waters of distribution, networking, and (scariest of all) tax credits. The festival runs November 22-25. To see all our coverage of the 7th annual Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival, click HERE.