11th Sep2018

Frightfest 2018: ‘Upgrade’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Anastasios, Melanie Vallejo, Richard Cawthorne, Harrison Gilbertson | Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell


Writer/director, and regular James Wan collaborator, Leigh Whannell puts the reigns of horror on hold and surprisingly turns his attention to the action genre with the effective, intellectual and engaging Upgrade.

This fast-paced, inventive, sci-fi thrill-ride, swirling together RoboCop, Death Wish and The Terminator and numerous Cronenberg body horror influences, is set in the near future, where technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when self-identified technophobe Grey Trace is made quadriplegic in a car accident his world is turned upside down. His only hope for closure and possible revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called STEM that allows him to achieve miraculous feats of mind and strength. But then STEM starts to take full control of his body and the true nano nightmares begin.

What’s most surprising in Whannell’s film is the craft and restraint showcased within the manner of filmmaking; though the stylised filming method and editing may perhaps be slightly jarring to the general audience eyes. Not necessarily groundbreaking production, this is however a striking departure from conventional methods, yet not nearly as distracting as Hardcore Henry.

The unconventional tracking focus is utilised with a superb level of intensity that gravitates the action set pieces ten-fold. Hand in hand with the edit, action sequences flow with a brisk and firm pace. Captured in a wide shot, set pieces never feel cheating nor compromised with a tense atmosphere present. The artistic vision is also utilised both effectively and efficiently. The futuristic setting is never lent on for sheer dependence, only ever referenced ever so slightly and never the forefront of exploration, which one should see themselves to fully comprehend, instead of possible spoilers that are present.

Logan Marshall-Green’s performance is a slightly mixed bag. On one hand, he fully throws himself into this role and the material present with sufficient screen presence. Yet, on the other, he fails to convey any form of charisma and emotional range. Certain scenes demand the former, and Marshall-Green, unfortunately, succumbs to the limitations of his own ability on the dramatic side. However, he shines in every major set piece in which he physically performs sequences that utilise his body far more than his ability to deliver dialogue…

Upgrade screened at this years Arrow Video Frightfest on Saturday August 25th


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