A new creature feature from Well Go USA arrives this month (in theaters and digitally), but The Tank needs a little bit more oomph.
My love of monster movies (especially “creature features”) is generally well known around these parts. As such, I was excited to check out this new one called The Tank, which takes a slightly different approach to the genre.
Directed By: Scott Walker
Written By: Scott Walker
Starring: Luciane Buchanan, Matt Whelan, Zara Nausbaum, Regina Hegemann, Jack Barry, Holly Shervey
Release Date: April 21st (Limited Theaters) & April 25th (Digitally)
Set in the 70s, Ben (Matt Whelan) and Jules (Luciane Buchanan) are a struggling couple as they balance parenting, running a pet shop, and veterinary school. As they worry about finances in an already turbulent time, a windfall seems to suddenly appear before them. The lawyer for Ben’s mother (who passed away six months prior) arrives at their shop with a revelation: they’d uncovered an old property deed among her belongings.
The coastal property has been abandoned for over four decades, however, and was never mentioned by Ben’s mother in all that time. When the family arrives at the location, finding an overgrown, but beautiful place, it seems like an ideal solution to their problems. Being able to sell the property could solve their money worries and set them up for all their hopes and dreams.
Staying for the next few days while they check out the property and potentially field offers, things begin to get a bit…creepy. The discovery of an old tank/well in the back, along with some general fixing up, leads to something ancient waking up. Something Ben’s mother tried to hide and the reason they never came back…
All in all, it’s your pretty standard horror movie setup. Honestly, if you didn’t already know it was a monster movie, The Tank actually sets itself up as more of a haunted house movie. In fact, that might be part of its problem.
Generally speaking, The Tank is a perfectly passable creature feature, with enough tension and occasional scare factor to keep you interested. The acting is impressive considering the script gives them little to go on, and the characters are almost instantly likeable. By the time the credits roll, however, I mostly felt, “eh, okay.”
Despite the marketing and everything about the promo being focused on the fact it’s a creature feature with prominent monsters, the film itself plays coy with them for the most part. Seriously, if you went into this completely blind, for the first two-thirds of the film you’d absolutely think this was some sort of ghost/demonic haunting film. We’re talking creepy house in the middle of the woods, things opening and making noises throughout the house at night, dark family secrets, and even a quick mention of local legends saying the land was cursed!
But no, it turns out to be some ancient amphibian creature that was jarred out of dormancy by Ben and Jules getting the old well back up and running. Unfortunately, you really only learn about that by reading the synopsis for the film. Otherwise, the movie doesn’t give you a whole lot of information to go on regarding the creatures.
A bit of mystery in a monster story isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the lack here robs certain moments of some tension, while also breaking your suspension of disbelief. Namely, you’re not given any sort of “rules” for the creatures to abide by.
All monsters/paranormal entities adhere to some set of in-universe rules or even behavior patterns. These are the aspects that add another level of fear as you know what they’re capable of, what they might be weak against (if anything). Knowing these things makes each subsequent scene a little bit more tense as you can connect what you see in each scene to that knowledge (e.g. think of what you know about Raptors and how that impacts the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park).
With nothing to go on, however, things that happen with the creatures has the distinct, “making it up as we go along” feel to it. I’m trying to avoid outright spoilers here, so allow a very vague example. There’s really no rhyme or reason to how the creatures stalk/kill people. Sometimes they attack people and leave the dead body where it was, other times it’s taken back to their lair in the tank, and one person was captured alive and dragged into the tank. Based off everything that came before that moment, it was very clear the only reason that person wasn’t immediately killed (like the other victims) was to give other characters a reason to go down into the tank themselves for a kind of showdown.
Stuff like that pulled me out of the moment and the seams of the film’s script were easy to see. While it seems like minor infractions in the moment, they added up to take away from the impact the movie was clearly going for.
In some ways, I almost wish The Tank had taken itself less seriously. A bit of intentional camp, or a dash of silliness would have gone a long way towards stepping up the fun factor a bit. It has the makings of a very decent B-movie, the kind of flick you’d find flipping channels on Saturday and don’t feel like you wasted any time watching it. Not necessarily something you’d head to the theater for, but fun enough in the moment with nothing else going on. The serious mood, however, takes away that goofy fun aspect and makes the issues stand out all the more.
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of great creature features go the full serious route and make it work (even the recent Crawl, which could have easily gone the other direction), but The Tank isn’t one of them. Without that factor in there, it’s tough to find much reason to return to it. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say I was ever bored during the film, but between the strange approach to the story and creatures at the center, along with the insistence on being a “serious” thrilled, I can’t imagine I’ll be coming back to this one.