Edinburgh International Film Festival

Guinea Pigs (2011)

Starring: Aneurin Barnard, Alex Reid, Steve Evets, Oliver Coleman, Nia Roberts, Skye Lourie, Amit Shah

Directed by: Ian Clark

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Aneurin Barnard as Adam in Guinea Pigs

Have you ever considered taking part in a clinical trial? Paid an infeasibly large sum of money for sitting around on your backside for a couple of weeks, playing pool and occasionally getting jabbed with a needle? You might change your mind after watching Guinea Pigs.

This low budget British horror sees eight participants from various different walks of life arrive at a remote clinic for a two week clinical drug test. They don't know what they're going to be injected with, they just know that they're going to be paid two thousand pounds for the privilege. What could possibly go wrong? Eight strangers, pumped full of experimental pharmaceuticals, trapped in a locked-down hospital building with no contact with the outside world... The question isn't so much 'what could possibly go wrong?' as 'why has no-one thought of this as a horror scenario before?'

Director Ian Clark admits that John Carpenter's The Thing was a big influence on the film, and certainly it recreates the same tense atmosphere, as our ill-matched group of guinea pigs battle an insidious horror that's lurking inside them, waiting to emerge in all its gory glory. True, the characters are rather broadly drawn, with very little backstory delineated: the token hero everyman, the bubble-headed student there for a laugh, the nervy student with money problems, the macho estate agent, the investigative journalist and the two professional labrats who've seen it all before – or thought they had.

But really they're only there to get picked off one by one by the horrible side-effects of the drug, to creep through darkened corridors and crouch in deserted laboratories as much of the action happens out of clear sight, through ghastly moans and groans and squelches and a grainy CCTV footage.

It's no Jacob's Ladder or Altered States, but Guinea Pigs is nevertheless a confident, atmospheric take on the 'mind warping drug with terrible consequences' trope. Well worth taking a dose.

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