The good old days when E.T. 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 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 Storage 24. The building’s labyrinthine corridors and snaking air ducts provide a suitably claustrophobic setting for the battle royal 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 plane 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 pal Mark (Colin O’Donoghue) arrive at a storage facility to collect Charlie’s belongings.
A malfunctioning security system traps the 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 friend Nikki (Laura Haddock) and snarky pal Chris (Jamie Thomas King). The former lovers trade barbs and then a growl reverberates through the building . . .
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 dog walker (Amy Pemberton), who follows her pet into a warehouse. Roberts’s film fails to replicate the shocks 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 Ned Dennehy as a hen-pecked customer, who stares at the alien and sneers: “You’re vicious, aren’t you.”
In the Georgia town of Pacashau, local businesses are struggling to survive and the Sacred Divinity church, led by Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance), is the focus of everyone’s prayers in Joyful Noise. The choir led by Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) inspires hope, so when he passes away suddenly, Pastor Dale appoints Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) as the new director to follow a traditional path of uplifting Gospel music.
Only Bernard’s sassy wife, GG (Dolly Parton), dares to stand up to Vi, warning the new director that she needs to be open to suggestions if they are to win the Joyful Noise competition.
GG’s handsome grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to town and immediately falls for Vi’s pretty teenage daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer).
As the final beckons, Randy and GG suggest contemporary song arrangements for the competition but Vi is unmoved, her pride coming before an inevitable fall.
Joyful Noise relies heavily on the chemistry between Latifah and Parton, and their verbal sparring has its moments, such as when Vi pokes fun at GG’s cosmetic enhancements and the pint-sized dynamo retorts: “God did not make plastic surgeons so they could starve.”
Palmer and Jordan are an insipid romantic pairing but they sing beautifully as the soundtrack swings from gooey ballads to upbeat exultations to the Lord.
Praise be that Graff doesn’t extend his saccharine sermon beyond two hours.