The director of the commercially successful Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) now brings us Upgrade, a body horror science fiction film unlike anything we have seen before from the genre.
A man named Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and a loved one get into a serious car accident, which renders him unable to walk. Shortly afterward, a brilliant technology expert implants a chip known as STEM into Grey that allows him to walk and also controls his mind. Now, Grey sets out on a mission to find and kill the men that killed his loved one with the help of STEM.
Coming off the success of the hit indie horror film The Invitation (2015), Logan Marshall-Green is proving himself to be a great actor with lots of range. His character in The Invitation being a quiet, reserved man who gets caught up in the middle of a strange mystery, and in Upgrade, a deadly man seeking revenge and mayhem. Marshall-Green has plenty of emotional scenes in this film that he sells perfectly.
In addition, the characters in Upgrade are excellently written and well-developed, particularly Grey. You feel plenty of sympathy for him, as he is just a simple man who one day finds himself ripped away from the people he loves most. In some films, this could come across as nothing more than a cliché, but with this film, Whannell and the rest of the team find brilliant ways to escape these issues. A lot of these fixes come from the comedic character of STEM.
STEM is essentially the comedic relief in Upgrade. When things seem to be going completely wrong, STEM will occasionally make a joke which are almost always funny. However, after a while, the humor got a bit stale, and took away from the film’s overall suspense.
The cinematography is also excellent by Stefan Duscio. Every shot looks dull and grim which helps add to the film’s dreary tone.
What’s also fascinating is how much the filmmakers were able to do with such a small budget of roughly $3-5 million dollars. So much of the film looks great, and yes, there is CGI, and a plethora of action scenes, and they all work perfectly with the budget.
The score composed by Jed Palmer is also beautifully haunting and creepy. If this score was not included in the final film, Upgrade‘s effect would not have been as big.
Upgrade does also feel too short at times. The film is only one hundred minutes long and it is noticeable. It would have been nice to extend the film a bit more to even further develop the characters and the futuristic Blade Runner-esque universe in the film.
Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is a fascinating and brilliantly told sci-fi horror film, even if it occasionally feels too rushed and bogged down by comedy.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Distributed by: OTL Releasing, BH Tilt
Running Time: 100 minutes