I like it when a movie starts out with a mystery--such as a group of people trapped in a strange place with no idea how they got there or why--which harkens back to some of the more brain-teasing episodes of "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone."
THE CONTROL GROUP (Wild Eye Releasing, 2014) does exactly that, this time with a quintet of college students whose last memory is of being at a party before waking up in some kind of vast, deserted facility with no exits.
Bossy, abrasive Vanessa (Jenna Enemy), her sullen boyfriend Grant (Justen Jones), space-case Jaime (Kodi Saint Angelo), and insecure gay guy Corey (Shane Philip) have all known each other since fifth grade. Jack (Ross Destiche), who recently attempted suicide after the death of his sister and suffers from trust issues, is the outsider of the group.
All will end up at each other's throats before it's over. Till then, the story is instantly intriguing as they begin to hallucinate (doors they've just walked through are suddenly bricked over, hooded figures with birdlike masks appear in the shadows) while each potential way out ends up leading them further into captivity.
This is my favorite part of THE CONTROL GROUP, because when the true nature of their situation begins to be revealed to them, it turns out to be something we've seen before. That is, it's all a super hush-hush government experiment and our heroes are the guinea pigs.
While this does make things more mundane, it also ramps up the action, beginning with a shocking death scene that will be the first of several. The people behind it all are made up of various factions--scientific, military, political--that are at odds with each other to the point where any monkey wrench in their plans threatens to make the whole thing go seriously awry. Which, of course, it does.
Everything is technically well-done save for some iffy digital effects. The performances are generally good, especially Brad Dourif (CHILD'S PLAY) playing yet another googly-eyed scientist losing control of his own experiment as he did in ALIEN RESURRECTION.
Emily Soto is rather endearing as Anne, a childlike girl who's been trapped in the cogs of the machine so long that she may or may not be a ghost. I also liked Monique Candelaria as government agent Heather, who has a crisis of conscience during the mayhem, and Taso N. Stavrakis as the freakiest, and funniest, of the whacked-out zombies.
According to the press release, "writer-director Peter Hurd's debut feature is now available on cable and digital platforms, including iTunes, Dish Network, Vudu, Xbox, Google Play, and YouTube. A DVD release is planned for May."
While confusing at times, at least this movie doesn't get boring and there's always something happening that makes noise or spurts blood, or both. So if you're simply in the mood to be entertained and don't care how, THE CONTROL GROUP isn't a bad situation to get caught up in.
Order The Control Group on iTunes