Despite having directed over five horror films in his career, director Neil Marshall is yet to receive the stature of one of the genre’s most accomplished voices. Even though The Descent (2005) should have alone gotten him instant acclaim, the dwindling resume of the director has further hindered his critical appraisal. His reimagining of Hellboy (2019) was not well-received, and the period-horror drama The Reckoning (2020) was released without anyone noticing. Marshall’s latest feature is The Lair—which reunites him with actress Charlotte Kirk (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and cinematographer Luke Bryant from his last feature, The Reckoning. While the audience and critical reception of The Lair are unlikely to improve Marshall’s image, it is nevertheless a slick B-movie that fans of Marshall’s early works (especially the similarly themed military action, Dog Soldiers) are likely to enjoy.
The Lair revolves around a group of British and American soldiers in Afghanistan who must battle ferocious mutants after an accident unleashes these terrifying monsters from a bunker. (the monster in the film are a mix of the sharp-toothed Feasters from Feast, the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, and even a bit of Venom from Marvel Comics!)
In this article, we take a deeper dive into the film and address some of the conspiracy theories that the narrative purports. We also explain the origin of the mutant-like creatures in the film. As always, a SPOILER ALERT is on display!
The Lair (2023) Movie: Plot Summary and Synopsis
Even though The Lair is meant to be an action B-movie about a group of tough soldiers going against blood-thirsty mutants, the film employs the gimmick of situating itself within real-life historical events. The film begins with a title card, which mentions the bombing of an Afghan province by the United States using the MOAB bomb in April 2017. While the said event occurred in real life, the film (in a tongue-in-cheek way) mentions that the real reason for the bombing was not to destroy the insurgents in Afghanistan but for a more sinister purpose. “This is what really happened,” the film mentions, laying claim to the ‘truth’—a gimmick often employed by horror films (especially found footage). This is not the only time the film ruffles its feather’s against history, as we shall later see.
The film begins with British aircraft pilot Kate Sinclair (Kirk), who is doing a round with her WSO, Captain Johnson (Alex Morgan). During their expedition, both their aircraft are attacked by Afghani insurgent groups. While trying to protect Kate, Johnson is shot dead by the insurgents. Kate manages to escape as the ruthless gang chases her. The chase leads Kate near an abandoned site with a heavily-locked bunker, with an explicit warning in Russian (“Don’t Open At Any Costs”). After a torpedo attack blows the bunker gate, Kate gets the opportunity to sneak inside the mysterious place. The militants swiftly follow her into what appears to be a dark and dingy laboratory. Kate also encounters bunker beds, gas masks, and decomposed corpses around the place.
However, the most frightening aspect of the site is several preserved chemical containers harboring something sinister (Stranger Things: Season 4, anyone??). When a gunfight between Kate and the militants breaks the glass seal of these containers, it provides an avenue for long-clawed, flesh-hungry monsters to escape from their exhibits. Kate gets an easy pass as the mutants devour the militants, but her belly is clawed at by one of the menacing creatures just as she escapes.
Soon after, a wounded Kate is rescued by a troop of American soldiers and taken to their base camp, headed by Major Roy Finch (Jamie Bamber). The battalion also finds one of the insurgents, Kabir (Hadi Khanjanpour), and takes him hostage. At the base camp, Kate strikes a friendship with Sergeant Tom Hook (Jonathan Howard), who informs Kate that this camp is infamous for harboring all the burnouts and disgraced soldiers. The Major was demoted to this camp because he had refused to follow orders during an operation, which cost the lives of two soldiers.
Hook introduces other disgraced soldiers in the camp—Lafayette (Kibong Tanji), a kleptomaniac who has a knack for stealing shiny things; Everett (Mark Erends), a clumsy soldier who had shot a guy in the foot; Serano (Adam Bond), a Casanova who had knocked up two daughters of a General, Wilks (Mark Strepan), a doctor addicted to medicinal drugs, and a garrulous British soldier Oswald Jones (Leon Ockenden). Kate tries to warn the camp and The Major about the vicious mutants, but they are skeptical about her claims. Major even snatches the microfilm camera from Kate, hoping it to give to the authorities. A disgruntled Kate tends to her wounds while the Major informs the authorities about Kate’s claims of violent mutants.
At night, the mutants violently attack the base, killing Everett and Serano, amongst several other soldiers. A mutant also attacks an injured Kate, wrapping his Venom-like tongue around her neck and trying to do something with his oral tentacles on her forehead. Before it can harm her, Kate is rescued by Kabir, who butchers the mutant’s tongue and finishes it. While the mutants end up killing most of the base camp, the remaining eight survivors take refuge inside the swap body of an ammunition truck. With the sun rising, most of the mutants escape, which Wilks later explains is due to their aversion to ultraviolet rays.
The survivors manage to locate the corpse of a mutant, and Wilks begins to examine it. To their horror, the group realizes that while the exterior body of the mutant is of monstrous origin, its internal organs are all-human. Before Wilks can dwell further, the dead mutant suddenly comes to life and begins to attack Kate, trying to grasp her forehead. Before the mutant can wreak further havoc, Major Roy blows the mutant into pieces, sacrificing his life in the process. With no contact with the outside world and limited ammunition left, the group decides to bomb the bunker to finish the mutants once and for all!
What Are These Mutants, and Who Designed Them?
The origins of these mutants are explained by Kabir, the Afghani native (And since this is a Hollywood film, you can bet that Soviet Russians are somehow involved in the making of this monstrosity!) It turns out that years ago, a UFO had landed in the Hindukush range harboring a sinister creature. According to the film’s logic, the Soviets wanted to have access to the creature, so they invaded Afghanistan—this being another of the film’s jabs at historical events. Years after the Soviet annexation, Afghans began rebelling and overpowering the Russians. Around the same time, men and women began disappearing from towns, with only their mauled corpses found later. Thinking that it was the work of a bear, Kabir’s father led a troop of forty-six men to hunt the beast, but none of the single men returned from the expedition.
It is later revealed in the film that the Soviets had captured these men and integrated the DNA of the alien creature from Hindukush into Afghani men—forming a breed of these ruthless mutants. When the Soviets left the country, they sealed their sinister operation inside the bunker so that these mutants could not make their way into the outside world.
The Lair (2023) Movie Ending Explained: How Does The Group Manage To Escape?
Since the creatures cannot come out into the sunlight, the group heads to the bunker to bomb the entire facility. But during the process, Hook is pulled down by the creature into the dungeon. It turns out that the mutants can read the minds of their enemies—and it was for this reason earlier that one of the creatures was trying to wrap its tentacles around Kate’s head. Knowing that Kate will rescue Hook, the mutant keeps him alive to lure the entire gang into the dungeon. The group is initially hesitant, but Kate convinces them to rescue Hook. Wilks stays on top to pull the elevator using his car as Kate, Kabir, Lafayette, Oswald, and Dave head down to save Hook.
To their horror, the group sees the original alien creature in a preserved container. Around the same time, several mutants start hatching from the glass tanks and attack the group. In the scuffle, Dave is killed, while Lafayette and Oswald sacrifice their lives to save the group. While battling one mutant, Kabir sees a watch in its hands that belonged to his father—confirming the suspicion that the Soviets had integrated the alien DNA into Afghans, including Kabir’s father. Around the same time, Wilks is attacked by Afghani insurgents, which causes his car to fall down on the elevator, killing both Kabir and his mutant father.
Kate and Hook are the only survivors and manage to escape from the bunker and save Wilks from the insurgents. Before the U.S. military bombs the entire place with a missile, the trio manages to escape as the ‘lair’ of the mutants is blown to pieces. At the same time, an army helicopter arrives at the base to get hold of Kate’s microfilm camera from the dead Major’s uniform. But to their surprise, the microfilm camera is nowhere to be seen. It is then revealed that a kleptomaniac Lafayette had stolen the camera from Major and given it to Kate—lending the group access to the government cover-up and proof of their horrifying ordeal.
In the film’s final sequence, we see Kate, Hook, and Wilks escaping the blast. However, the tires of their car are trapped in the sand. Just as the credits begin to roll, we hear Hook igniting the engine, confirming the trio’s escape from the desert and their subsequent survival.