THE good old days when ET simply wanted to phone home are long gone.
Now, if aliens descend on Earth, they don’t want to sit contentedly in the basket of a child’s bicycle and soar serenely across a perfect moonlit sky.
Otherworldly visitors want to annihilate and conquer, preferably via a series of expensive, special effects-laden set pieces that reduce iconic landmarks to steaming piles of twisted metal.
A 24-hour storage facility in south London is the epicentre of the destruction in Johannes Roberts’s gore-slathered sci-fi horror.
The building’s labyrinthine corridors and snaking air ducts provide a suitably claustrophobic setting for the battle royale between a hideous extra-terrestrial predator and a motley crew of ill-equipped human prey.
Characters are slain in grisly close-up at regular intervals to satisfy gore hounds, while the script plays the usual mind games to bring an unlikely saviour to the fore at the crucial moment with a stirring declaration: “I got nothing to lose so I’m going to go and kill that thing!”
It’s hardly poetry but the heroic spirit is unmistakable.
The film opens with a suspected airplane crash in the capital, which causes widespread panic and destruction.
Metal crates are strewn among the debris, with nothing inside apart from a gooey residue slathered over the interior.
Nearby, wise-cracking Charlie (Noel Clarke) and his best friend Mark (Colin O’Donoghue) arrive at a storage facility to collect some of Charlie’s belongings.
A malfunctioning security system traps the young men inside the building with employee Jake (Alex Price) and electrician Bob (Geoff Bell), who attempt to reboot the mainframe and open the metal shutters.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Mark head for a locker where they run into Charlie’s embittered ex-girlfriend Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), her gal pal Nikki (Laura Haddock) and snarky pal Chris (Jamie Thomas King).
The former lovers trade barbs and then a growl reverberates through the building.
“Maybe it’s the air settling in the pipes... or something?” wonders Charlie.
Based on an original screenplay by leading man Clarke, Storage 24 is solid, entertaining but unremarkable genre fare, littered with undernourished characters and predictable twists.
The set-up is familiar, right down to the opening scenes of a nameless dog walker (Amy Pemberton), who follows her pet into a gloomy warehouse where something nasty lurks in the shadows.
Johannes Roberts’s film fails to replicate the shocks and mordant humour of Attack The Block from a similarly loopy premise.
Clarke quips through the madness while his co-stars treat their predicament with utmost seriousness, except for Ned Dennehy as a hen-pecked customer, who stares at the alien and sneers, “You’re vicious, aren’t you. Just like my wife, my Mary!”
Slick make-up effects and a couple of fizzing one-liners compensate for a paucity of edge-of-seat scares.
STAR RATING: ***