Picture the scene I am about to describe; it shouldn’t be too hard to do so, as it’s a scene that’s been played out a great deal in the past decade. Four young women awaken in a blank cage. Each of them is in a basic bunk, clad in basic fatigues and T-shirts (but with mysteriously bust-enhancing bras; guess that’s standard prison issue nowadays). Most dauntingly for them, and predictably for us, not one of them knows why they are there, or what is happening; they have all lost their memories, and wouldn’t even know their own names were they not written on their wristbands. Soon enough, men in masks and white coats emerge, seemingly doctors of some description, and it becomes apparent the women are subjects of an experiment of some sort; an experiment which – yes, you guessed it – somehow revolves around the endurance of mental and physical torture. Can they escape before it’s too late? And just what could such a heinous experiment seek to achieve…?
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I am seriously restraining myself from making this review one long spoiler fest, as the resolution of Bane is – to put it kindly – less than predictable. Suffice to say at this point, it has nothing to do with that big bloke who broke Batman’s back. Although if he were to show up at the climax, it would most likely seem more natural and plausible than the way James Eaves ends his story.
Let me put this to you: where did you stand on Martyrs? Pascal Laugier’s film was arguably one of the most polarizing entries in the recent torture cycle, with many (our own Marc Patterson and Britt Hayes among them) declaring it a masterpiece, whilst others (such as myself) remain less than convinced. I think it’s fair to say that where the film really split the audience was when it revealed the motivation behind the torture. I won’t launch into a debate on that subject here, but I will say this: if, like me, you had a hard time swallowing the Raison d’être of Martyrs, you will positively spray your beverage once Bane reveals what’s really going on. Seriously, it is an absolute howler, made all the more preposterous by the stony-faced seriousness with which the whole endeavour is handled.
Okay, okay, I’ll try to be nice for a paragraph or so… it is certainly commendable to see a microbudget horror film making efforts to subvert convention and expectation. Clearly a great deal of care and attention to detail has gone into the film, and subsequently Bane is without doubt aesthetically superior to many films made at this level, with effective music and cinematography. The cast, too, are giving every effort. The intent is clearly there to make a film that is powerful, moving and memorable, and the risks taken with the narrative are I suppose part of that.
But there’s a reason we call them risks; the reason being, if it doesn’t work you may well wind up looking very silly indeed. Eaves and co have certainly succeeded in making Bane memorable, but probably not for the reasons intended.
Yes, the writer/director is taking it seriously, the cast are taking it seriously, all and sundry are taking it seriously. There is not an ounce of intended levity in this film. And when you’ve got a narrative that hinges on a twist this ridiculous, you are setting yourself up for a major fall by taking such an approach. Michael Bay was serious when he had William Fichtner request to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man he ever met. Ed Wood was serious when he had the alien declare “your stupid minds, stupid, stupid!”
In case any of this is at all ambiguous – Bane is a terrible, terrible, terrible film. It’s so overlong, self-important, and (as I think we’ve established by now) so inherently silly that it winds up being the most laugh-out-loud bad horror film I’ve seen all year. Even so, it’s faintly heartbreaking at the same time as it is so clear that all involved were anxious to do a good job. Indeed, in the extras and behind the scenes footage, the director, cast and crew alike all come off as really nice people, which does make it hard to have to speak so harshly of their work. (Yes, believe it or not, we anonymous reviewers do have feelings too.) That it has taken over two years for the film to get a DVD release in its home country, and has been packaged with an utterly unwarranted caution label for its violent content (see the DVD cover above), leads me to suspect distributor Safecracker Pictures realises what a turkey they’ve got on their hands.
Still, all this considered, I can’t help but recommend Bane in a way. I can see it sitting alongside the likes of Troll 2 and Plan 9 From Outer Space as one of those so-bad-it’s-good classics. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a touch curious about seeing more of James Eaves’ filmography, just to see if it plumbs the same depths as this one. In short, if you’re looking for the next British horror masterpiece, look elsewhere; but if you want to indulge a passion for paracinema, you need look no further.