April 21, 2023 / Well Go USA
Luciane Buchanan, Matt Whelan, Zara Nausbaum, Regina Hegemann, Jack Barry, Holly Shervey
After mysteriously inheriting an abandoned coastal property, Ben and his family accidentally unleash an ancient, long-dormant creature that terrorized the entire region—including his own ancestors—for generations.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
The Tank may traverse familiar territory in the horror genre, but writer-director Scott Walker creates heart pounding tension throughout the film to create an unnerving watch from start to finish.
From the first scene of the film, the audience knows the direction this story is heading based on the tease we get of something dragging a man down into a hole in the ground (the titular tank in the film). So after the first twenty minutes where the premise of the film is introduced, the only question left in the viewer’s mind is what type of creature is eventually going to make an appearance on screen. However, the strong execution of this simplistic premise delivers all the horror goodness fans of the genre will be looking for in this New Zealand creature feature.
Ben and his wife Jules learn that Ben’s family owned a property on the Oregon Coast that has been sitting empty for forty years, which Ben has now inherited after the passing of his mother. Ben and his family travel to the property, finding a rundown cabin with majestic ocean views, while trying to decide whether to keep it or not. But while there, they accidentally unleash an ancient, long dormant creature that has terrorized the area for decades, as well as Ben’s ancestors, which has now set its sights on Ben and his family.
As I’ve already touched on, this film has a simple premise. However, a simple premise can work incredibly well in the horror genre. It is easy to get bogged down in the details, explaining the origins of the evil forces you are seeing on screen, rather than letting the chaos unfold. Writer-director Scott Walker takes his time to build the tension of the film, teasing the creature that is about to wreak havoc and try to kill Ben and his family with lots of sounds in the darkness, camera shots teasing that something is stalking Ben and his family, and peculiar discoveries on the property for the first two acts of the film. It is the “less is more” approach as Walker creates a feeling of unease before unleashing the creature on the audience and the characters, but combined with the film’s shorter runtime of one hundred minutes, it is an effective way to set up and tell this film’s story.
What truly makes The Tank such an unnerving experience is the creature design. We as viewers are never told what the creature stalking Ben and his family is, but you never need to learn more about this petrifying entity brought to life by minimal (if any) CGI. Designed by a team of Weta Workshop artists, the creatures are absolutely terrifying, reminiscent of the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. Everything from the deadly look of them, the way they crawl and leap across the screen, to the distinct and blood curdling sounds they make, there is nothing about the creatures that won’t get under your skin. And that is what makes the film so effective, because the creatures inject the already uneasy atmosphere of the film with absolute chaos and terror to create a wildly disturbing and thrilling final act.
While the film does have a very small cast, there are solid performances from the two leads: Matt Whelan and Luciane Buchanan. As Ben and Jules, Whelan and Buchanan ground the film as these two parents trying to protect their daughter from the ancient evil lying beneath their new house. There’s a sense of urgency they bring to the film as they try to survive the film and protect each other, that is built upon the family dynamic they create together in the first half of the film. Apart from the two of them, there are not many other actors who get a considerable amount of time in the film, but under Walker’s direction, Whelan and Buchanan help emotionally invest the audience in the film.
All the individual parts of the film come together thanks to Walker’s direction and the way in which he tells the story. Clearly inspired by horror films of the 1970s and 80s such as The Thing and Alien, Walker takes his time to show the audience the creatures, focusing on the film’s atmosphere. Using lots of shots drenched in darkness, implying something is lurking either just behind the camera or to stage left with smart sound design, Walker builds the sense of danger and makes his small horror film a rousing success by playing games with the audience before unleashing the creature you are eagerly awaiting to see.
Restrained horror focusing on atmosphere and characters are always my preference to gory films, because while blood and dismemberments are disturbing, nothing gets under my skin like a well executed and terrifying vision. And that is exactly what Scott Walker does with his latest film, that I can easily recommend if you think you can stomach it. Relying on the setup and building of unbridled tension in the first act, Scott Walker unleashed a truly terrifying vision in The Tank that is sure to not only rattle viewers, but take them on a thrilling ride.