As films like Deathwatch, The Devil’s Rock, the Outpost franchise, Frankenstein’s Army, Overlord and many others amply demonstrate, films pitched as ‘trapped in a bunker with infernal abominations’ form a (literal) subgenre, exposing the monstrousness of the military mentality. Falling neatly into this category, Matt Mitchell’s original The Rizen (2017) showed cold warriors struggling to contain their latest superweapon, freshly unleashed from a Lovecraftian dimension through psychiatric experiments and ancient rituals. It compensated for its obvious budgetary limitations with a very good cast (including Sally Phillips, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Adrian Edmondson), and with a kickass heroine (Laura Swift) whose charmingly outmoded pluckiness totally matched the 1955 milieu.
Set in the present day, Mitchell’s follow-up The Rizen: Possession follows a set of young urban explorers (another horror subgenre!) who break into the same underground network of tunnels, and a crack team of mercenaries hired to go after them by Phillips’ otherworldly and mysteriously un-aged ‘Suited Woman’. As the two groups retread the labyrinth of corridors, offices and laboratories from the first film, they also come under repeated attack from the characters and creatures of six decades ago. It is a great creepy location, even if all that endless wandering, all that repetitive reflex of fight and flight, quickly meanders into a mechanical routine, while the updating of these well-worn tropes to the modern day paradoxically serves to make them feel less fresh.
Still, there is something in the way that the past keeps infiltrating and haunting the present here that serves as a reflexive comment on the very nature of war mindsets as well as sequels, both doomed to repeat their respective histories – and the ending of Mitchell’s film certainly promises yet more (of the same) Lovecraftian dread to come.
© Anton Bitel