20th Feb2018

‘The Rizen’ Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Laura Swift, Patrick Knowles, Christopher Tajah, Laurence Kennedy, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adrian Edmondson, Sally Phillips, Tom Goodman-Hill, Bruce Payne, Stephen Marcus, Bruce Herbelin-Earle | Written and Directed by Matt Mitchell


The Rizen is a UK indie-horror film set in a black hallway during the early days of the Cold War in 1955. You can tell this a period piece by the handcrafted, vintage style black walls and black floors. If this movies set design got any darker it would write poetry and start cutting itself.

I had a hard time getting into this film before I even hit the play button. The title is The Rizen. No, not “the risen” as in “the dead has risen” if you’re referencing zombies, or “He has risen” if you’re referencing theological zombies. As far as I can tell The Rizen is purposefully misspelled like “Kewl Katz” or “Hawt Dawg”. I had to Google search the name several times to make sure I wasn’t missing a shout-out to some British slang or Babylonian incantation. And I know that riffing on the title itself might seem picky (it isn’t), but I’m trying to convey that this film made a poor first impression and it only got worse from there.

The film opens on our nameless heroin being dragged across a black floor by a man in leather wrapped headgear, think of the nurses in Silent Hill. She sluggishly awakens then quickly begins cracking Rizen skulls. The idea of this female super-soldier might seem ridiculous at first, as far as I know there weren’t many helicopter kicking female anythings in 1955 England, yet the eventual reveal of her backstory does offer an explanation. Add to the fact that she is played by stunt-person Laura Swift, and you actually have a well-cast character. Laura Swift is an imposing figure as she battles the Rizen horde through black corridor after black corridor.

Obvious comparisons to the first Resident Evil movie can easily be made, but I feel this movie one-ups Resident Evil in at least it’s ass-kicking female lead is believable. If you saw waifish model Milla Jovovich and Laura Swift standing side by side, whose hallway would you rather be in when assaulted by the forces of evil?

The Rizen is an action movie more than a horror movie, but it also wants to dip a toe in the comedy genre with unsuccessful results. Christopher Tajah does his best with what is given in his role as the bookish scientist turned monster fighter, but jokes on what weapon to use when killing a monster, or poorly timed one-liners try to give The Rizen a Shaun Of The Dead vibe that never works. It just isn’t that kind of movie. When you’re trapped in a bunker of never-ending hallways, everyone around you is not only dead, but gutted and sacrificed to some Eldritch horror, and you can’t even remember who you are, who’s yucking it up like a gritty reboot of MASH?

Not that The Rizen is all bad. I fondly remember one scene where a soldier, played by Patrick Knowles, is ordered to kill “contaminated” scientists. He refuses the order even at the barrel of a gun. The genuine struggle between duty and morality in his eyes actually made me feel something and I liked the character a little more for it. Also, the films basic premise is really good. Scientists are charged by the British government to pour through Nazi records and decipher their meaning. The meaning, wouldn’t you know it, is that those goofball Nazis were trying to use black magic to open a portal to another dimension. What the Germans couldn’t do, the English could, and now Hell is unleashed upon the world. It’s a great concept that’s never given room to grow thanks to repetitive monsters and an utter lack of atmosphere.

The Rizen is the kind of flick that sounds fantastic while reading the synopsis, but upon viewing seems like a totally different movie. I like period pieces. I like Lovecraftian horrors. But simply put, I was disappointed.

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