By Jake Watt
26th January 2023

Set in the mountainous landscape of war-torn Afghanistan, director Neil Marshall's ('Hellboy') action/horror film 'The Lair' doesn't waste any time with small talk. Royal Air Force pilot Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) is quickly shot down in hostile territory and, upon crashing, immediately wipes out a bunch of gun-wielding insurgents. She manages to dodge the machetes, bullets and rockets of the inevitable reinforcements, but a much bigger danger awaits her in the deep recesses of a mysterious bunker. Spoiler alert: it is home to bloodthirsty alien hybrids created by Russian scientists.

Kate is rescued by a band of misfit soldiers who excel mainly at delivering hokey dialogue in a variety of wonky accents. Aside from Hadi Khanjanpour, as a resourceful Afghan prisoner, the acting is dreadful, though the script is so poor and the characters so clichéd that it is difficult to blame the performers. Need I mention that the action scenes are confusingly shot and underlit, while the low-budget mutant aliens look like Putty Patrollers from TV's 'Power Rangers'?


Look, 'The Lair' sucks – if you want to watch some weird war tales, try Julius Avery's 'Overlord', Roseanne Liang's 'Shadow in the Cloud', Jordan Vogt-Roberts' 'Kong: Skull Island' or the 'Outpost' series. Neil Marshall, up until his ill-fated attempt at rebooting 'Hellboy', didn't suck. He actually directed two bona fide British horror classics: 'Dog Soldiers' and 'The Descent', both of which he shamelessly cannibalises for 'The Lair'. He also directed a pair of fun action movies, 'Doomsday' and 'Centurion', which had impressive performances from its female leads in the shape of Rhona Mitra and Olga Kurylenko. Additionally, he directed some of the most exciting episodes of 'Game of Thrones', like 'Blackwater' and 'The Watchers on the Wall'. The guy has the ability to make a budget of twenty bucks look like a million. So why have Marshall's last two films, 'The Lair' and 'The Reckoning', felt like such an awful regression in his ability as a filmmaker?

Why have Neil Marshall's last two films, 'The Lair' and 'The Reckoning', felt like such an awful regression in his ability as a filmmaker?

Google Charlotte Kirk's name. She was a struggling actress in her early 20s who was promised auditions and acting jobs in return for sex by a bunch of creepy old weirdos in the film industry, including CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara and NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer. It was Meyer who promised her a role in 'Hellboy', which is where Neil Marshall met her. She is now his fiancée and Marshall has gone on to cast her as the lead in three films and counting, all of which she is also the co-writer and executive producer of.

Two things baffle me. Firstly, if you wanted to make your new spouse your muse, would you not expend every effort to ensure that she is in your best creative work, not your worst? Secondly, Kirk isn't a horrible actress. Sure, she's flat and dealing with poor dialogue, but I've seen worse. However, she has been laughably miscast in both of Marshall's films as, respectively, a 17th-century woman accused of witchcraft and a modern-day badass commando.

I don't want to say that Neil Marshall is a great director who's wasting his talents making Z-grade vanity pictures for a younger, hotter partner known for sleeping with powerful people to get roles. The casting couch sucks and Marshall and Kirk are both adults - their relationship is their own business. But they are obviously a horrible pairing as creative partners. Marshall desperately needs a kick up the pants from a mate or someone who cares, because he has proven many times over that he is capable of so much more than low-effort trash like 'The Lair'.

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