New Horror Releases: The Rizen (2017) - Reviewed

It is Britain, 1955. A woman (Laura Swift) wakes up while being dragged down a hall by a creature. She fights it off and kills it, then finds identity papers in her clothes. She is a cook named Francis Day. And she has absolutely no idea who she is, where she is or what those creatures are. Soon Francis stumbles upon a scientist (who she refers to as Professor, played by Christopher Tajah) and together they try to escape from the bunker they are trapped in while fighting off more of those murderous creatures. 

This is the setup for The Rizen, a pretty compelling horror/action/thriller with a clever setup and good use of the story’s maze-like location. It relies on intrigue more than gore and uses flashbacks to provide insight into its mysterious premise. As far as films from this particular genre go, it is also pretty quiet. 

While it does feature some nasty moments (and a decent amount of action), its suspense is more focused on Francis and the Professor, and the soldier (Patrick Knowles) they eventually come across, trying to stay alive long enough to figure out who they are and what is going on. Especially early on, there is not a lot of dialogue and that silence is effective at increasing the tension. 

Occasionally, once the story gets moving, something will trigger Francis’ memory. That is generally how The Rizen’s plot is moved forward: they battle some creatures and then Francis recalls something about herself. At first, I did not much care for how the flashbacks were being incorporated. They interrupted the action at awkward times and seemed deliberately vague. But, after a little while of this, the film gets into a solid rhythm and begins using them more effectively. Some of them are a little long and slow down the film’s momentum, but they really are necessary to explain the story. And the structure adds to the tension because we are learning their past as they are. ​

However, it is also my biggest complaint about The Rizen. The flashback structure makes things more confusing than they had to be. This is especially a problem during the big climax. I was not able to completely follow everything that was going on at the end of the movie, though I did get the gist of it. It did not hurt the suspense of the conclusion too much (and the final moments are pretty cool), but it does somewhat blunt its impact. 

The mystery/flashback approach is a double-edged sword. It creates drama and suspense if done right (which it is here, for the most part), but it can also make things harder to follow and force a lot of exposition right at the end. That also happens here. Thankfully, the movie was compelling enough up to that point that it did not lose me. ​

In the end, The Rizen is a creative horror film that cleverly uses its setup to keep its viewers guessing. At times, it can be too clever for its own good, but I would rather too much than not enough. This movie was written and directed by Matt Mitchell, who definitely has a lot of ideas. And, judging by the way this film ends, it seems like he still has more left in the tank. He combines a few different genres into a blender in The Rizen and came up with something pretty entertaining. It is an enjoyable conclusion to what ended up being a pretty good year for horror. 

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-Ben Pivoz