The Tank

Director: Scott Walker
Starring: Luciane Buchanan, Matt Whelan, Zara Nausbaum, Regina Hegemann, Jaya Beach-Robertson, Holly Shervey
Distributor: Rialto
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong horror themes, violence and injury detail

In Oregon 1978, a young family inherit a remote and long abandoned coastal property, and awaken beneath it, a horde of ferocious and deadly creatures, that feed on the living.

This is a modest but effective horror film from New Zealand. With an eye to the American market, the movie is set in the US – first in Oakland, California and then on the rugged coast of Oregon – but in reality is produced in New Zealand, with a New Zealand cast and its creature special effects from the Wellington-based Weta company.

Fans of horror films will be familiar with the various conventions that it employs. There is a quietly sinister introduction, filmed in black and white, the setting 1946, the house on the Oregon coast, the rather large water tank of the title, subterranean, a man going down into it, then trying to escape, clutched and dragged down again. And then we are in 1978, at a pet shop, amusingly called Raining Cats and Dogs, run by a nice family, Jules (Buchanan) with her enterprising husband Ben (Whelan) and their lively young daughter, Reia (Nausbaum).

As may happen (sometimes?), a lawyer arrives to tell the couple that Ben’s recently deceased mother has left them a house and property in Oregon. Ben had no idea, acknowledging that his mother was rather secretive, especially about the death of his father, allegedly by drowning, and the death of his young sister. The film uses a number of flashbacks, filmed in black and white, scenes of the mother and daughter, at the house and the beach, becoming more reclusive.

So, off they go, and us with them, on the drive north, to remote forests, with falling trees blocking the tracks for the car, trekking to the house, finding it boarded-up, pulling off the planks and letting in the light. The family go outside and discovering the amazing beauty of the coast. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the camera alerts them and us to the top of the tank. Our fears are allayed at first, Ben going down, nothing particularly startling except needing to get the engine going to get the water to the kitchen . . .

But, we know that there is something down there in the tank. And, on the first night, a certain number of bumps in the night.

The next morning, a real estate agent arrives with a firm offer for the property, cheerful, urging them on, but reminiscing about the mysterious past and even mentioning the word curse.

So, we know what is in the offing. And it is. The mysterious creatures below gradually appear, sinister presences, then close-ups, water creatures with sharp teeth, menacing, violent, abducting the daughter, injuring Ben, and challenging Jules, who is a sympathetically enterprising kind of woman, to rescue her daughter and ward off the creatures.

Slightly spoiler alert – the film does have a happy ending. It seems that it is only the critics comfortable in their theatre seats who are really after an unhappy ending.

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