This article has videos that may contain murder, violence and other graphic scenes. Viewer discretion is advised
Twenty years after unleashing the lycanthropic terror Dog Soldiers on the masses, English director Neil Marshall returns to the war-torn horror subgenre with The Lair, which was released in theaters on October 28, 2022. The grotesque creature feature concerns an RAF pilot discovering a harrowing biological mutation from a military experiment gone awry in Afghanistan.
The Lair marks Marshall’s seventh feature film to date after spending a half-decade (from 2014-2018) directing several television shows. However, the question that has been on everyone’s lips is whether Marshall still has the ability to recapture the sheer terror that was felt when fans watched Dog Soldiers and The Descent. Given it only achieved 30% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics, it doesn’t seem like it has, but maybe it will be proven popular with fans found on Letterboxd.
Hellboy (2019) – 2.0/5
Available To Stream On HBO Max
Movie remakes and reboots rarely eclipse the original, and Marshall learned the hard way that redoing a Guillermo del Toro movie is an even more difficult chore to pull off. Indeed, the lackluster reboot of Hellboy is the lowest cinematic moment of Marshall’s career, per Letterboxd, with the consensus agreeing that the film is an incoherent mess with tonal inconsistencies and an underwhelming visual tableau.
Although David Harbour’s central turn as the titular hellion was moderately praised, the sentiment for the film on Letterboxd ranges from “desperate and ugly,” by matt lynch, “worst reboot ever!” by sofyan, and “shockingly bad” by pd187. Perhaps most poignant, Danny B points out, “This is a reboot no one asked for. The fans of the del Toro Hellboy films wanted Hellboy 3, not a reboot.” Unsurprisingly, Marshall has not made a reboot or remake since.
The Reckoning (2021) – 2.2/5
Available To Stream On AMC+ Amazon Channel
A year after rebooting Hellboy, Marshall ventured to 1666 London to explore the Great Plague in The Reckoning, in which a young widow is accused of being a witch following the death of her husband. Another dismal affair compared to his finest work, most Letterboxd users agree the film is mired in too much gloom and hyper-violent torture to be pleasant enough to recommend.
While Bjorn Broekman defends the film for its “strong lead and immersive atmospheric qualities,” most Letterboxd users agree with nad‘s perceptive assessment, “I love me a witch story about the dark ages but this was so agonizingly miserable without a single breather for either audience or characters and seemed to indulge its defilement for degradation’s sake more so than the supposed empowerment message about the feminine resilience.” It’s something fans really hope has been improved on given the years that have passed.
The Lair (2022) – 2.5/5
In Theaters Now
With nearly 300 Letterboxd votes so far, The Lair appears to be a slight upgrade over Marshall’s last two cinematic efforts. The film concerns Lt. Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk), a Royal Air Force pilot who uncovers a military experiment in Afghanistan involving biological weapons that result in a half-man-half-alien mutant running amok.
According to Fake Rob Hunter, The Lair is “a competent enough piece of action-horror with some underwhelming creature design,” with Trine adding, “Sometimes the film seemed like a few cut scenes put together from a videogame, but other than that it was a lot of fun.” Sean Kelly also notes the videogame tableau, adding “The Lair and the creatures’ look seems quite reminiscent of survivor horror videogames, such as DOOM and Resident Evil.” In a more positive review, gprime77 adds “Neil Marshall loves claustrophobic creature features and this is another solid one from him and lead Charlotte Kirk.”
Doomsday (2008) 2.8/5
Available To Stream On Starz
Marshall’s third feature film, Doomsday is a sprawling post-apocalyptic movie about a virus spreading throughout Scotland, forcing millions to quarantine before Major Eden Sinclair is tasked with finding a cure. Despite pulling from a slew of cinematic influences, the film has more defenders than detractors on Letterboxd.
While most agree with xtini that Doomsday is essentially a mashup of “28 Days Later meets Escape From New York meets Mad Max meets Underworld meets Gladiator,” some feel the result is a jumbled hodgepodge of better films, while others, like Ben Hibburd, heap effusive praise on Marshall’s ability to deliver “a pure adrenaline experience that rivals some of the [wildest] action (movies) ever made.” Unfortunately, no matter where Letterboxd users stand, Doomsday wasn’t the most successful horror movie ever, earning $22 million at the Box Office (via Box Office Mojo).
Centurion (2010) – 2.8/5
Available To Stream On Hulu
Two years after Doomsday, Marshall made Centurion, a gory gladiatorial period piece concerning Roman Soldiers dealing with an ambush from guerillas. The film bombed even harder than Doomsday at the international box office, earning $6 million (via Box Office Mojo) although it has its fair share of Letterboxd defenders who mainly praise its breathless and visceral action sequences.
Justin McDonald praises Centurion, calling it “a damn fine historical chase movie from Neil Marshall,” noting that “like his other movies, once the action starts it doesn’t stop.” Travis Lytle doubles down, adding, “While “Centurion” may lack the character and characters of cinema’s great epics, it suffices as an entertaining, sometimes riveting piece of work.” Yet, others like Nick Atkinson and Rumson have brought the review score down by voicing such critical sentiments as saying the movie is “painfully bland,” and “drags a lot during the second half.”
Dog Soldiers (2002) 3.4/5
Available To Stream On STARZ
One of the most acclaimed werewolf movies of the past two decades, Dog Soldiers finds a routine military training regiment rudely interrupted by a lethal lycanthropic scourge in the Scottish highlands. Marshall’s searing cinematic debut remains one of his most acclaimed for its relentless violence, unpredictable plotting, and genuine scariness.
With no shortage of praise on Letterboxd, Gregor Kreyca makes a salient point by stating, “Neil Marshall’s directorial debut, Dog Soldiers, is a near perfect example of what can be done with a very low budget if you have a strong cast, a talented crew and a director with skill, passion, and a vision.”
The Descent (2005) – 3.6/5
Available To Stream On Prime Video
One of the most well-received horror movies of the 2000s, The Descent is by far Neil Marshall’s crowning cinematic achievement to date. The story about a female spelunking team trapped underground with a horde of deadly mutant creatures is the essence of claustrophobic dread and inescapable tension and suspense.
With nearly 1,500 likes for their honest assessment, #1 Gizmo Fan claimed “my skin has crawled off of my body and descended into another realm,” after watching the truly terrifying horror movie. Casper is more specific about the movie’s strengths, adding “As a claustrophobic person, this is the perfect example of why I will never go on cave exploration. Being in tight, dark spaces with an unsure exit route is my idea of a nightmare.” However, few articulate the movie’s excellence more than Silent Dawn, who states, “The Descent is absolutely impeccable. Dread is instant, continuous, and ever-present.” Hopefully, Marshall makes a movie as scary as The Descent sooner than later.