Set on the coast of North Korea, The Chamber follows the pilot of a small submersible craft who is ordered by his superiors to take a three man special ops team on a secret mission into North Korean territory. However, disaster strikes and the craft become trapped on the seabed; with time running out and rescue almost impossible, the crew must find a way to survive not only the situation…but the tension building amongst them. With such a loaded political context combined with a nightmare for any claustrophobe, The Chamber seems ripe for a truly intense experience, but missteps in visual and narrative depth, stop it from truly reaching its all of its potential in spite of flashes of quality.

The simplicity of The Chamber’s concept proves to be both its greatest strength and weakness. The fear inherent in the situation drives the film forward, even before the vessel is stranded; it lingers in the atmosphere, enhanced by the fabulously subtle score from James Dean Bradfield, creating an undercurrent of dread with underlying deep tones that almost meld into the very world of the film itself, and fitting into the direct genre sensibility that lurks at the heart of the film. The cast work well with the narrative space they are given; it’s a simple set up and gives the performers the chance to hold the film. However, as the film builds into disaster, the simplicity becomes almost a chasm, revealing how bare the film is in terms of character depth, use of space and originality, instead of feeling like a lean and merciless decent into disaster. It’s a satisfying journey, but not one that plays on the minimalism to its maximum potential.

Perhaps the most disappointing factor in the overall picture comes in the shape of its cinematic texture. Honestly, the film lacks a real sense of cinematic vision, with the visual consistency of the film never finding a true sense of identity. It is shot and constructed serviceably enough to hit its marks and keep you interested, but it never pushes into creatively bold spaces, rather becoming staid and unadventurous at its worst. Unfortunately, the spectacle of the film as a result to be more akin to the sort of highly prized one off TV special rather than an a bold cinematic one. I truly don’t mean this as a slight, considering both the increasing quality of television production and also the limitations Parker set himself in terms of the submarine interior being the dominant setting, but I personally can’t help but feel that the sheer dread and claustrophobia of the situation could have been articulated with greater degrees of affective style, playing with camera angles and mise en scene in more experimental and expressionist way to convey the psychological weight and desperation of the characters.

However, where the majority of film holds steady if rather too demure, the conclusion of the film plays directly against this by delivering both genuine shocks and real emotional connection between characters. This focus in on the characters allows the audience to not simply sympathize with their plight, but to finally invest in their survival. Just when that investment reaches it’s apex, Parker’s horror instincts kick in and he delivers a hammer blow that strikes with sudden and unexpected power, cutting straight to the core of expectation and drowning it in an instant. The cold nihilism and sheer ambiguity left for the audience in those final moments takes your final breath away, with shades of the finale of John Carpenter’s The Thing, while breathing a vitality into the film itself that leaves it on a particular high.

Ultimately, The Chamber is a solid survival drama, almost sunk by a chronic lack of cinematic style and subtlety, but redeemed by a climatic ascent that shows a fearlessness of vision that propels the film back from the depths.

Horror Channel Frightfest review: The Chamber
3.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk