A year or so after Attack the Block was released, another British sci-fi horror film with a black protagonist fighting an alien invasion came out — with less spectacular results. Noel Clarke stars in Storage 24 as Londoner Charlie, who’s down in the dumps after his girlfriend Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) dumps him. He heads to the Storage 24 storage facility in a last-ditch effort to win her back, aware that she’ll be there divvying up their belongings. Accompanied by his pal Mark (Colin O’Donoghue), he’s let into the building and catches up with Shelly and her friends Nikki (Laura Haddock) and Chris (Jamie Thomas King).
Unfortunately for Charlie, his efforts to rekindle the flame fall flat (which is probably for the best because Shelley looks for like a hipster Gelfling), but things get worse when the building locks down due to a power outage caused by a nearby plane crash. And then, things REALLY go sideways because it turns out the crashed plane was of the “top-secret military” variety, and the cargo it contained was of the “man-eating alien” variety. The creature has escaped into the facility, and soon the friends find themselves running for their lives, trapped inside with the vicious alien as they try to find a way out of Storage 24.
To say that Storage 24 is influenced by Alien is like saying that Aliens is influenced by Alien. It’s got all the trappings of the Ridley Scott classic and its sequels: the confined metallic setting, the insectoid alien, the slime, the creature traveling through overhead vents, the bastard who turns on everyone to save himself, the coward who proclaims they’re all going to die, etc. But the familiarity doesn’t stop there; horror clichés abound, from the lack of cell phone reception to people roaming around in the dark asking “Is anyone there?” to the presumed dead person who springs to life for one last gasp to the peripheral guy who sacrifices himself (for once, NOT the black guy) for the hero to a monster who for some reason decides to pick up and non-lethally toss the hero rather than just ripping his head off like it does everyone else.
It’s certainly nice to see a black hero in the film, but unlike John Boyega’s Moses in Attack the Block, Charlie is grating — a twitchy, overly emotional type with a violent streak whose only defining characteristic is that he’s obsessed with his ex. Honestly, the only reason we root for him is that he’s actually less unlikable than Shelley and her friends (except Nikki, who the film thankfully doesn’t try to force feed as Charlie’s new love interest, or else the moral would seem to be that the cure for a bad blond white girlfriend is a good blond white girlfriend). Despite the irritating nature of the characters, Clarke, like the rest of the cast, delivers a decent, semi-comedic performance that — and I mean this in a complimentary sense — comes off like a poor man’s Will Smith.
Once you get past all the borrowed elements, there’s enough in Storage 24 to make for some good, shallow fun. It’s got a polished look (Director Johannes Roberts would go on to helm 47 Meters Down and its sequel, plus The Strangers: Prey at Night and The Other Side of the Door.), with nice makeup effects and the plentiful gore. The plot, although one long cliche, is fast-moving with popcorn appeal, even if some of the character reactions and action sequence logistics are frustratingly nonsensical. What keeps the film from truly tapping into its pulpy appeal, though, are the uninspired set pieces, which follow the standard horror beats and lack any real scares or “wow” moments. Like a high-end SyFy movie, Storage 24 is eminently watchable but only sporadically enjoyable.