Getting its worldwide premiere at Arrow Frightfest 2019, Stairs is the new horror movie from Realm of the Damned director, Tom Paton.
It sees a special ops unit named ‘Hell’s Bastards’ sent into infiltrate a civil war to retrieve intel. Details on just what their mission is and why are light but it doesn’t matter. As after taking out their enemies they find a local woman bound in a tent.
Unit leader Stanton (Shayne Ward) orders her to be killed. Kia (Samantha Schnitzler) initially puts up some resistance but “orders are orders”. So she shoots the woman dead. Not before she issues them a warning though.
“Don’t go down”
The squad leave and reconvene at HQ where they are to report their findings and deliver the intel. It’s at the top floor of a huge building but the lift has broken down. So they are forced to take the stairs.
A big mistake.
Once on the stairs the unit find themselves trapped. The stairs are endless and going back down is out of the question. Death awaits below and once the lights go out it’s time to keep on climbing.
Their only escape is through the doors where they will have to face up to the things they’ve done in the past and try and correct them.
Loved it. Stairs is a smart, interesting and satisfying horror thriller. The concept alone was enough to draw my interest but the execution is almost perfect. The idea of a unit of hardened and battle-ready soldiers trapped on an endless staircase trying to keep ahead of an ever encroaching evil is different. While not scary per-se, it’s thrilling and expertly paced.
Our introduction to the cast paints them as battle-weary but tough as steel nails. They’re a roughneck bunch led by a man (Shayne Ward is excellent) who could be seen as unstable if it wasn’t for his unceasing loyalty to orders.
His foil comes in the form of Schnitzler’s Kia. Someone who stands up to him and occasionally questions his authority. She is the lead of the movie and while she is still an absolute badass, her butting heads with Stanton makes her more likeable.
Alongside a supporting cast that includes; Simon Meacock, Bentley Kalu, Toby Osmond , Jack Ford, Spencer Collings and Phoebe Robinson-Galvin, Stairs has a solid cast of characters and actors. Simply put, they’re a good bunch to watch and listen too even if some are a little more developed then others.
Cleverly the movie shifts focus somewhat in the second half as we enter a kind of ‘Groundhog Day’ inspired section. The surviving unit members trying time and time to correct their mistakes and failing. Having to keep climbing the stairwell to escape death and get ahead enough to try again. It’s far more enthralling then you might expect and while you can see the ending coming a mile away, it doesn’t lessen the impact.
It has some faults. It’s a little slow in places and the finale is a little dragged out but those negatives are massively outweighed by the positives.
The Final Score - 8/10