Review: Guinea Pigs

Starring Aneurin Barnard, Alex Reid, Chris Larkin

Written and directed by Ian Clark

Edinburgh International Film Festival

A self-selecting group agree to take part in a drugs trial at an isolated location… guess what happens next?

Shot almost like a fly-on-the-wall observational documentary, the opening section of Guinea Pigs—in which the characters all arrive and are initiated into the drug trial they’re being paid £2000 to take part in—features probably the film’s best moments. Characters are well established, both ‘patients’ and the medical staff, as are the parameters of the seemingly benign trial.

It’s only when the negative effects of the drug kicks in that Guinea Pigs reverts to the kind of predictable horror-lite runaround that we’ve all seen a million times before. There is little follow-through on the promising characters. The effects of the drugs and the actions of those affected are woefully predictable. A little more imagination, such as the drug inducing a different reaction in each character according to their own attributes, might have helped the middle section that simply devolves into a series of dull flight-and-fight sequences that then make up the rest of the movie. There’s a mild hint of conspiracy—maybe this outcome is deliberate?—but it is buried amid the mayhem and mindless mugging.

The cast is packed with TV faces, all underused. Aneurin Barnard, who played David Bailey in TV bio-pic We’ll Take Manhattan, does the best with what the script has to offer him, as do Alex Reid, one of the doomed social workers from Channel 4’s Misfits, and Doctor Who guest star Nia Roberts, but as the film progresses they become little more than screamers and runners. It’s a shame, as the premise and execution are solid, but the ideas are lacking.

Verdict: Promising and competent, but ultimately predictable and disappointing. 6/10

Brian J. Robb

Guinea Pigs is screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 23 June at 23:25 and 24 June at 17:20.

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