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The Rizen (2018) begins with a visually impressive opening title sequence with plenty of graphics, predicting the potential for lots of fun. Setting: In 1955, the Allied Forces and NATO had been orchestrating secret, underground experiments in an attempt to win the Arms Race. As we all know historically, post-war experimentation on humans always goes well. Deep in an underground tunnel, Laura Swift plays Frances, who resembles a British Brie Larson with a ’50s hairstyle, while dressed in fatigues. Frances meets Baughman (Christopher Tajah), a doctor of sorts who seems to know a lot about very little, and who speaks like he’s trying too hard. They both claim to have woken up with little to no memory of how, why, and when they were placed there. The majority of the film takes place in underground tunnels, so most of the time is spent with the pair searching for a way out while finding clues along the way. Occasionally, ‘infected’ humans wearing civilian clothes, with their heads wrapped in bloody bandages, appear and start trouble with Frances and Baughman. The pair always succeed in fending off the infected, and Frances appears to enjoy knocking them down, then bashing them into mush with a crowbar. Frances randomly experiences distorted and incomplete memories of herself being strapped to a chair in a lab while undergoing some forms of conditioning. Both characters experience either flashbacks or repressed memories throughout the film, which often become tedious and act more like scene-fillers.

Frances and Baughman meet “Number 37” (Tom Goodman-Hill ), which is both coincidental and convenient since Frances is “Number 36”. 36 and 37 make plans to escape, until 37 is taken out by one of the infected. Frances and Baughman meet Briggs (Patrick Knowles), who also endures flashbacks and waking visions like Frances and Baughman. Briggs is cuffed, yet decides to tag along, later becoming romantically attracted to Frances. Bruce Payne (Passenger 57, Warlock III: The End of Innocence) makes a brief appearance as an ‘admin’. It is the moment when Payne makes an appearance, when it feels like most of the budget was spent on him. It becomes clear, by the film’s conclusion, that half the budget must have gone to Payne, while the other half funded the odd and misplaced ending.

The Rizen is director Matt Mitchell’s third feature film, with The Rizen 2 slated for release sometime later this year. Other than his three feature films, Mitchell has also directed six short films, all within the ten years he has been in the business. Mitchell’s efforts are notable, but it feels like he has yet to master his craft. The pacing and flow of a film should be comforting, inviting and entertaining, not monotonous, random, and abrupt. The Rizen, unfortunately, falls into the latter. Perhaps, I can recommend another post-war horror flick? There are plenty out there.

Rizen is streaming now on the following services:
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