Synopsis: After mysteriously inheriting an abandoned coastal property, Ben and his family accidentally unleash an ancient, long-dormant creature that terrorized the entire region-including his own ancestors-for generations.
Stars: Luciane Buchanan, Matt Whelan, Zara Nausbaum, Ascia Maybury, Graham Vincent, Mark Mitchinson, Holly Shervey, Jaya Beach-Robertson
Director: Scott Walker
Running Length: 100 mins
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: The five love languages are affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts. I’d argue that there should be one more added for people like me: creature features. Yes, I would say that the old-school monster movie is most definitely one of my love languages and one that I don’t get to speak much of anymore with any gold seal quality. For every decent effort, there are a dozen stink bombs that cross my path, and I fall for them every time. I’m especially susceptible to water-based beasts, be they in oceans, lakes, rivers, bathtubs, or in the case of the fun new release we’ll be talking about today, tanks.
Following a brief but ominous prologue set decades earlier, the main action of The Tank takes place in 1978 when pet shop owner Ben (Matt Whelan) and his wife, Jules (Lucianne Buchanan), learn that Ben’s estranged mother has passed away. Though a recluse he had little contact with, her death brings back painful memories of his fractured childhood, growing up knowing that his father and sister died in a mysterious drowning that was never fully explained before he was born.
With his mother’s death comes an inheritance of a plot of land in Hobbit’s Bay, Oregon, previously unknown to him. Mounting bills and a desire to learn more about this family secret leads Ben to pack up his family (including daughter Reia) and travel to the coast to investigate. At the very least, the house could be fixed up and sold for a profit. When they arrive, they find the kind of boarded-up homestead most people would run screaming from, yet the family cheerily opens the house up again and tries to make it livable. This includes filling the water tank out back that had run dry.
We know from the prologue that something dangerous lurks down in the vast tank with side passages that have been carved out. Something fast, something hungry, and something that grows strong when you add a little water to the mix. It isn’t long before unexplained events start around the home, and Jules (with a keen eye for creepy crawly things due to her experience in the pet store) pieces together that an amphibious creature is lurking around the area and making a home in their water tank. And it’s only getting bigger and more territorial as the days and nights tick by.
While The Tank hardly wins any significant points for originality in plot or dialogue, it scores big in its execution. I’ve said it countless times before, but practical effects and physical creatures will win out over computer-generated monsters any day of the week. Filmed in New Zealand (standing in for Oregon and not very well, I might add), The Tank and writer/director Scott Walker have the great fortune of working with the imaginative minds at the WETA workshop who have delivered a beast that’s often quite frightening on the rare occasion when we see it in all its glory. Walker is wise to show the bare minimum of the creature, not just because it adds to the impact of the effects but because it lets our minds fill in the blanks of what we aren’t seeing. That all results in a film that doesn’t skimp on a few good jolts, many of which are carried out in broad daylight. A particularly scary corker of a sequence in a forest as a doomed victim is stalked had me nervously chattering my teeth.
There are bound to be nitpicks about the logistics of the plot and the timeline of the events of the prologue and main action, but I reveled in my watch of The Tank, and not just a little bit. This was a joy to screen because it eschewed much of the junky gunk that drags down most of the creature feature output we get today. If it’s all done in a computer lab by techs that don’t have much investment in what they’re developing, the scares barely register. The result is entirely different when an actor can see and feel what they need to fear. That spills out over onto the viewer, and the rush is palpable. Bound to work best when you’re in the right frame of mind to be entertained with no fuss, The Tank fills your cup and then some.