Film Review: Event 15 (2013)

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SYNOPSIS:

Three soldiers get trapped in an elevator when terrorists set off a dirty bomb. But when White escapes, her world turns upside down as she realizes nothing is what it seems.

REVIEW:

As a big fan of psychological horror, Event 15 ticked a lot of boxes for me. It explored relationships between people in a highly stressful situation, as well as throwing a few curve balls in there to keep the audience guessing. Tension is kept high throughout, and it is films like these that truly prove that elaborate sets and stunning visual effects are not the key ingredient in making an exciting movie. Similarities can be drawn with Devil (about a group of people who get stuck in a lift and end up getting killed, one by one) and The Exam (about a group of people in a job interview, trying to figure out what is being asked of them), yet I don’t think this one was executed quite as effectively, but it was still a gripping watch. Event 15 could even be compared to the thriller Buried, as they are both stories told in a tight space, where the character(s) are trying to escape. This is not the type of film for everyone, but you can’t help but admire an intense story when you see one.

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Once again, there appears to be confusion here about the title of the film – it was given to me under the name ‘Event 15’, yet when I watched it the opening title read ‘Trauma’ and I have since found it on the internet under a newer name ‘Alpha Alert’. Whilst doing some fact-checking online, I am of the understanding that Trauma is the French title and Alpha Alert the US title, but I shall just continue calling it Event 15 so as not to cause unnecessary befuddlement. I personally think that either Trauma or Event 15 are more relevant titles after watching the movie – they definitely seem to fit the movie more, but that is by the by.

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Event 15 introduces us to three soldiers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, due to the various horrors they have experienced during the war. We see these characters being interviewed by a doctor in a ‘found footage’ style, and these clips continue to pop up throughout the film in order to give us a greater understanding about why they are there in the first place. However, when all three of them get in the elevator of the building, it ends up breaking down, leaving them all trapped in there. As panic starts to rise, they eventually discover that a ‘dirty bomb’ has been set off in Washington D.C. and the radiation cloud threatens to poison anyone in its path.

This means that they are faced with two options – wait it out, keeping sealed in the lift so as to not let in the radiation, or to try and find a way out (something they’d have to do on their own, as the maintenance crew all jumped ship as soon as things kicked off). What follows is a desperate struggle between the three of them, with plenty of conflict and paranoia. I won’t reveal anything more here, as I wouldn’t want to ruin the twists and turns, but all is not as it seems.

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The back stories of the three main characters here works well at giving the viewer some context, and a fuller appreciation of why they behave as they do. Whilst there are some things that appear illogical during the piece, keep watching because all will be explained in the end. There are certain similarities that can be drawn with the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (where participants were assigned into either a prisoner role or a guard role, and things quickly spiralled out of control).

And most importantly, we all remember how that one ended…with the psychologists running the experiment getting much too involved in it as well, meaning that it got shut down after only 6 days. The scary part of this all is that the experiment was funded by the US Office of Naval Research and indeed, the military has been known for trying out crazy experiments in order to create some sort of ‘super soldier’, such as giving soldiers a drug which can allegedly enable them to stay awake for 40 hours straight with no ill effects and trying to create a ‘rocket sled’ going at 400mph, which ended up causing fatal brain damage to the test chimpanzees.

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I thought that this was a good attempt at tackling some serious issues, and for that reason I would definitely recommend it to those who are fascinated by psychology. The beginning is rather slow, but sets up the rest of the movie nicely, and things quickly build up to unnerving proportions. It is a simple yet effective little story, that definitely deserves a bit more recognition.

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