I’ve realised that I have a type when it comes to horror films, mostly likely influenced by my days as a teenage goth: dark, moody and disturbing. It’s not often that I find that magical combination of atmosphere, creeping tension and unrelenting fear but Tom Paton’s The Ascent ticks all of those boxes. Starring Shayne Ward and Toby Osmond, The Ascent is scary as all hell with the tension ratcheted to the max and features that winning horror trifecta of fear, plot and great performances.
The Ascent opens with a special ops team infiltrating a civil war in eastern Europe. The Hell’s Bastards are there to retrieve intel but they land up bringing something far more sinister back home with them. Back at HQ in the UK, they soon find themselves trapped in a never-ending stairwell. Their mission? Ascend or die. As their past sins come back to haunt them, the team realises they will have to right their wrongs if they want to survive.
The Ascent is a beautifully atmospheric film and reminded me of my most loved of all horror films, Open Grave. I have to admit, I was a little wary of the vague eastern European setting at first, worried that the film would trample all over the reality of war, real or fictional. The truth is that the film handled those scenes especially well, communicating the meaninglessness and horror of war with muted and desaturated cinematography. This is not a pretty war and the crimes and atrocities captured were approached with the necessary gravity.
The film features great performances from the entire cast, especially Sophie Austin as Emma Walker and Samantha Schnitzler as Kia Clarke. The Ascent dives deep into their past lives, their personalities and the choices that delivered them to this never-ending hell. It was great to watch their character development and especially pleasing to watch a certain reality star meet his fate twice, for even though I like him in real life, his character was particularly awful in this film.
Written and directed by Tom Paton on a tiny budget, The Ascent represents the best in independent horror and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved this film and Paton’s Pandorica even though I definitely didn’t love his other feature Redwood. Two out of three ain’t bad and I need to see Black Site and whatever Paton brings us next.
For delivering a cracking film on the horror of war and the embodiment of hell, I give The Ascent a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of atmospheric and moving independent horror.
Previously seen only at the Frightfest 2019, The Ascent is available on exclusive premiere on Birdbox.Film and will be available from 15 June on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Sony, Xbox and Google Play. The Ascent was originally called Stairs and will be released as Black Ops in the US.