It’s rare for unexpected good news to make a genuine difference but for Jules and Ben Adams, struggling to make ends meet at their exotic pet shop in Oakland, California, an after-hours caller brings just that, the deeds to a forgotten property at Hobbit’s Bay in Oregon which Ben has now inherited following the recent death of his mother, though there are questions: why did his mother never mention the house, and why does the attached newspaper clipping contradict what Ben was told about the death of his father and sister?
Travelling north with their young daughter Reia and her dog, the house appears to be close to ruin, boarded up and encrusted in decades of overgrown vegetation, but inside seems salvageable with a bit of work, and the view over their private beach makes it a prime location to renovate and sell at a profit, even if the locals believe the area has been cursed since the earthquake which split the valley open decades before.
Set on the Pacific coast of America, The Tank is written and directed by Scott Walker and filmed in his homeland of New Zealand with a homegrown cast led by Luciane Buchanan and Matt Whelan as Jules and Ben, any early attempts to disguise their native accents abandoned as the film drags itself through the process of home improvement montages and the evolution of the carnivorous amphibious larvae which are housed in their underground water supply.
Taking place in 1978 with flashbacks to the events of 1946, a retro creature feature feel vibe of the era when such films rules might have elevated the film had any effort been made with clothes, hair, makeup or soundtrack to evoke those periods, but instead the decision seems made solely to preclude the family from reaching the outside world via the Internet or mobile telecommunications, backstory instead revealed through a file of documents anonymously left at Ben’s mother’s doorstep and subsequently found by Jules.
Regardless, a creature feature requires bodies and mayhem, or at least the threat of such, and with the family of three living in near isolation there aren’t many options so it is their visitors who are called upon to sacrifice themselves to advance the plot, first up perky estate agent Merial (Ascia Maybury) who valiantly chose to park at the top of the hill, presumably a tougher hike going back up than coming down as daylight has given way to full night by the time she reaches her car and meets her fate.
Frustratingly slow, with thirty minutes cut and the narrative streamlined to take place over a single day and night rather than several The Tank might have been able to stand as adequate despite the absence of anything resembling an original idea, but as coherent as soggy newsprint and with the tension of a slack elastic band all that can be said is that from a Darwinian perspective it might have been a service to evolution had it only been the dog which survived.