Scintilla is an Outpost-like film about a group of soldiers finding something sinister in a military setting, and I don’t mean finding big, mean men with even bigger moustaches and guns, although this film does have some of those as well!
Scintilla or The Hybrid, as it’s known in some territories, is set in part of the former Soviet Union, during a civil war. Hence, as you might expect from a film set in Russia, the colours seen are typically greys and steely blues, all washed out to give a sense of the cold and general grimness of the area.
Jim (played well by John Lynch, who looks a little bit like Eric Cantona) is a political prisoner who is recovered from a pretty nasty prison by a would-be client who offers him a deal for his freedom in typical Dirty Dozen fashion. Jim, being a smart guy, agrees to take the job as long as he can recruit his own band of mercenaries for the mission. The job is all a bit hush-hush initially, but it soon turns out that Jim and his motley crew (no, not the rock band) need to infiltrate a heavily guarded Russian military silo, which has been captured by some nasty rebels, and retrieve some medical research from a secret bunker beneath said silo. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that things don’t go well for our band of greying anti-heroes and they end up finding more than they bargained for with some fairly creepy consequences.
Being a fan of the old military horror subgenre I was looking forward to watching Scintilla and, for the most part, it doesn’t disappoint with it grim settings and casually brutal tone. No one in this film is particularly likeable, but you can’t help but root for a few of them when the shit hits the proverbial fan during the latter acts. Scenes showing how unpleasant the rebels are (heads on spikes and in bags, desecrated bodies etc.) mix well with the more super-nature elements later on. The whole look and feel of the movie is ably supported by a disquieting film score (by Adrian Johnson), which really helps to ratchet up the tension, along with bizarre tableaus such as when our band of mercenaries are hiding in the woods from a skull-faced motorcycle rider.
Scintilla isn’t the most original sci-fi horror out there, but it posits a number of interesting questions and does so with considerable style and distinction.
However, it’s not all good news. The film’s first act, which sees our band of mercenaries infiltrating the silo, is excellent, but the second act tends to flag, almost as if it’s unsure of what story elements it wants to develop further. The expository scene with the crazy female doctor reminiscing about her earlier work, illustrated with some badly done flashbacks, is a case in point. It’s just handled badly. Additionally, a couple of peripheral characters are given some pretty trite dialogue to say and their own story arcs don’t really go anywhere useful or interesting.
Overall though I have to say I enjoyed Scintilla, at least for the most part, although not as much as I enjoyed O’ Brien’s Isolation (2005), which was a thoroughly enjoyable reworking of The Thing, but this time set in a cow-shed, in England! However, with this more recent film it gets a bit disjointed at times, although you’ve got to love a film which features a bone-breaking alien/human hybrid thing in it, along with some nasty humanoid mutants and a Saxon song playing over the end credits.
Scintilla has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Metrodome Distribution. There were sadly no special features on the disc.