Claustrophobic horror is one of my favorite subgenres. Few things are more terrifying than being trapped somewhere you can’t escape from, especially when a horrible monster is constantly on your tail. Life follows a group of six multinational astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Upon receiving a space probe returning from Mars, they discover what is the first proof of life beyond Earth. As the astronauts experiment on the life form more and more, it doesn’t take too kindly to constantly being probed and starts going on a killing rampage. Trapped on the space station, the astronauts must fight to survive this ever growing and evolving alien threat.

No matter how large the environment, things can quickly grow stale when your film is set in one location. You need a logical progression of the events through the environment to keep it interesting. Horror-esque films such as Alien, The Thing, The Raid: Redemption, and Buried have used this element to great effect, making you feel just as trapped as our heroes. The key was that you liked the characters in these films and wanted them to survive. That’s not the case here. Every character is just so incredibly boring, with about as much depth as a puddle. I know this a killer monster movie, but can’t you make the characters say anything other than awfully written expository dialogue? There’s no attempt to build characters at all. The performances are great all around, but the actors are constantly fighting a losing battle against the writing. Every time the film seems like it’s going to slow down for some people to talk, they converse for a total of a minute and immediately get back into the horror.

The other big problem is that the horror aspect isn’t exciting either. There’s nothing especially creative to be found here. The trapped in space genre is nothing new, but that just means you have to think more outside the box. I really enjoyed the first half hour of the film. Although it was way too fast paced, it was intriguing watching our characters study this extraterrestrial being. For a moment, you feel the same sense of wonder and excitement they feel. The sense of horror and confusion didn’t fully come across to me, though. As horrifying as the events were, the characters were so insanely stupid, I couldn’t help but be annoyed instead. As a huge fan of the genre, I can suspend my disbelief more than most when it comes to dumb characters in horror. Those dumb characters are normally daft teenagers, though. These are highly trained astronauts and it was surprising to see them make so many illogical decisions, only to further the plot and gore.

While I admire that the director shied away from jump scares, there was no tension to be found for me. Being trapped in space with an alien monster would be horrifying. However, when the film consists of nothing but characters flying from one room to the other, locking themselves in, and the alien subsequently finding them, it gets quite boring. I just didn’t care. The only horror I ever felt was, “Yeah, that would be an awful way to die.” Whenever the film seems like it’s going to take a risk, or do something different, it doesn’t. I do admit that I adored the ending, though, even though I called it after seeing the trailer. Regardless of predictability, I was happy the filmmakers took at least one risk. It’s a shame, because the film is technically stellar. The cinematography is gorgeous, perfectly capturing the vastness of space, as well as the isolation of the station. The pristine production design of the station and impeccable sound design at least made the film somewhat immersive.

Immersion doesn’t help much when the characters irritate me, though, and Life was really nothing but that. Unlike some, I’m easily able to admit that a lot of horror films are generic trash. They’re cheap to make and easy to write. There has been a seemingly small resurgence of more original and quality fare recently, but for the most part, it usually ends up as something we’ve seen a hundred times before. A film should be judged on its own, though, but even on its own, Life has pretty much nothing to offer.


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