So, starting back after a little summer holiday hiatus with a little fun…. Psycho Goreman is 2020 film directed by Steven Kostanski. It’s somewhere between sci-fi, fantasy, horror and gore, as the title implies. The film has themes of monsters, creature feature, space and aliens. It has obviously been dated and has the feel of an 80s or 90s film to me.
Anyways so synopsis! The main stars, two siblings Mimi and Luke are playing a game only they know the rules to when they come across an unusual gem in a hole in their garden. Shortly after, a monstrous figure emerges from the same hole and creates a path of destruction and death. It identifies himself as “Arch Duke of Nightmares” and reveals its plan to destroy and imprison everything and everyone in its path. Looking for the gem, it meets Mimi and Luke, and Mimi discovers that the gem actually controls the monster who she names Psycho Goreman (or PG for short). She then wields this power for her own amusement. An intergalactic panel arrange to send a warrior down to earth to kill PG. Meanwhile we learn that PG’s aggression is an act of vengeance after his enslavement by the same group of beings now being sent to kill him. There’s some sub-plot stuff going on in the film where the parents of Mimi and Luke are clearly in dire need of a divorce (they’re truly awful people), Luke’s best friend gets turned into a brain, PG wreaks havoc on a policeman turning him into a zombified thing and manipulates Luke into revolting against Mimi in a bid to recover the stone. It all comes to a head with a final battle where Mimi fights Luke, Mum fights Dad, PG fights the warrior. With no end in sight, Mimi proposes a final battle using the game Mimi and Luke created together. It’s hard to describe what this game actually entailed due its complex rules and even harder for the characters to understand themselves but in any case, Mimi’s team wins, the gem is given back to PG and he promises to spare the family. The final scenes are of PG’s rampage across the universe.
So, what do I think? The film as a whole is awful but in a really fun way. The acting was over the top and it felt like, as with a lot of gore films, many scenes were super gorey for the sake of gore like this crazy scene where we see the warehouse which is PG’s first stop in the film and it’s the most incredible scene you’ve ever witnessed. Body parts all over the walls, and a random guy’s eyes are just rolling back into his head into infinitum all because he said “I don’t want to die” so PG says “don’t worry I’ll make you live forever” and he is true to his word, leaving this poor homeless man in absolute hellish never ending agony. Brilliant. It’s so horrible that it ends up being really funny, sorta like when Joker does these truly heinous things to people in Batman films and there’s something so disgusting and amusing about it all.
The young Mimi character in this is so sassy. She’s the perfect actress for this film and she’s kind of awful as well. I liked that she was so annoying that she didn’t read like a child acting as a child, she just felt genuinely like an aggravating brat. She used any opportunity to tell her dysfunctional parents to fuck of; there was really no telling her what to do, especially because they were the worst parents of all time. In a sense they were too caught up on their own stuff to really understand that their kids were in terrible danger until the last minute. They even met PG and their first instinct wasn’t to get the hell out of there. I like that the dad was very obviously going through huge trauma, i.e. there is something very wrong with this guy. He’s seen something that traumatised him. On the face of it, he seemed like a really lazy man taking advantage of a hyper functional wife but there were moments when he would look into the distance and you could see the whites of his eyes and you knew he was a broken man.
One of the funniest moments is just a small bit where Mimi asks if PG wants a magazine of hot hunky boys and PG says “I DO NOT LIKE HOT HUNKY BOYS” and then he quickly changes his mind with “MAYBE I DO LIKE HOT HUNKY BOYS”. It was such an unnecessary moment to the plot but very amusing. There are many moments like this in the film that are unnecessary but wildly entertaining. Another moment like that is about Luke‘s best friend, who was turned into a brain which I mentioned earlier. It’s really not talked about in the film. Even when the film concludes and Mimi returns the stone to PG, there is no resolution for the kid who got turned into a brain. There is the scene at the end where you see him going to eat dinner with his parents are totally silent. Presumably enough time has passed and they have come to terms with this but it’s just such a weird scene. His hands are flopping around while he tries to use the fork and knife to eat. Can you imagine him becoming an adult brain? Can he have a family? What will he go on to work as? Does he have the average intelligence of a child or does the size of his brain-bod increase his intelligence? It’s really bizarre and I have questions. And the terrible fact is that it’s Mimi’s fault that he becomes like this, which really brings into question who is the real monster here: Is it PG or is it Mimi?
I mean.. Imagine being in the room when someone pitched the idea for this film.
Film guy: Hey so there's a gem yeah, and a child finds it and it controls the ultimate villain of the universe.
Some guy with money: Ok…
Film guy: So the kid wields it over him
Some guy with money: Right…
Film guy: But he manages to destroy a bunch of people, turn a child into a brain and fuse a gun to the hand of cop and zombify him
Some guy with money: And?
Film guy: And there’s a warrior that looks like a mechanical angel you would expect to see in Doctor Who and some aliens who get killed with space knives
Some guy with money: Hmm
Film guy: And the villain promises not to kill her but then he kills literally everyone else
Some guy with money: …
Film guy: And somehow I want to throw in a confusing kid’s game into the mix that no one knows how to play
Some guy with money: …
Film guy: Are we making this or what?! **motions to do a high five but gets denied**
That is how I imagine it went, yet somehow this film was made.
So all in all, entertaining and fun film to watch. Probably not going to win any awards and I question how and why it was made, but it was a fun couple of hours nonetheless.
sophfifest.com on the best of sci-fi-london.com’s film festival shorts for 2022
I’ve been on a little sophfifest.com hiatus so I’m doing a little catch up now. You might notice quite a few blogs released today. Enjoy!! Life took over but now I’m back! Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me and have been reading and subscribing to these blogs. This is really just a hobby for me so I appreciate your support!
So, SciFiLondon came back with a vengeance this year, returning to their normal summer-ish schedule. I didn’t see as many films as I would have liked to have seen this year so I was really grateful that they put their shorts programme online so I could watch everything at least from that programme. I also managed to watch ‘The Innocents’ which I will do a separate post for. Excellent film. Deffo recommend you check it out if you haven’t. I was really stoked to see it is already streaming, so go find it.
This year’s programme was separated into themed groups. In the past I’ve written a brief synopsis and feels post for each film but I decided this year that I would just make special mention to those shorts hich I particularly enjoyed.
So, the first film that I really enjoyed was called Signal Dark. It was directed by Alex Murray and released in 2022. It’s based around a character called Lucas Anderson, whose life has turned upside down when he stumbles across a mysterious email and its reality bending contents. Lucas seems to work as an IT guy in a server room and he opens an email, sees a mysterious transmission which he plays and in almost Alice in Wonderland proportions, he ends up discovering that this weird sound transports him to another time in the future. He obviously gets very spooked by that and tries to not play it again but it seems that he gets transported regardless and finds himself on a beach, confronted by a tentacled monster (which is where the film ends).
I thought overall the visuals for the film were really spectacular. I enjoy shorts that transcend or don’t use any language, so any person from any country can participate. I think that’s what makes this film so accessible. A couple things did bother me about the film though. I think anyone who works in IT would know that you don’t open random email attachments especially when working with servers. That struck me as not being totally realistic lol. I also think more could have been left unsaid in terms of the final monster. I think part of what is so scary in film sometimes is what ISN’T shown to the viewer. In this case, the end monster comes out of the mist and it reveals its face and that was reductive for me. I kinda wish just the tentacles as I think that was spooky enough. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this short.
This film was directed by Max Pearce and debuted this year, 2022. So the premise is that Selene dreams of working on the first space colony. However, she is a ‘naturally’ born human living in a world that favours the genetically engineered. This obviously means she is not super privileged; she lives in a very small apartment with her engineer mother who works in what sounds like a warehouse and has a bionic arm she made herself. On the offset, we learn that her mother has lost her job at the plant and Selene promises to pull them out of the funk they are in by making it to this space colony, which appears to be an impossibility as a ‘natural’ human. The impression given is that the genetically engineered have a significant leg up in life and it is unlikely Selene will be able to compete. There’s also early reference to a friendship Selene has with a rich guy, GM human called Fabrizio. You know the type… Rich guy, rich daddy. Selene and Fabrizio both take the theory test to work on the colony. She performs pretty well and is telling Fabrizio she did the test in 20 or so minutes and is proud of herself, and he smugly tells her he performed it in less time which I thought was really rude and is a precursor to how he will behave later on. That he can’t be happy for his friend tells you everything you need to know about the guy. In the physical element of the test, participants are required to swim a number of lengths within a certain amount of time (I think it’s like five minutes) and he finishes well before because of his modification and she ends up falling short by maybe 1 second. Everyone tells her she should be proud of the results but of course she just narrowly lost out on her dream and a lot was at stake so she can’t really be happy in that moment. She and Fabrizio hang out at his rich person house and she is obviously still upset, but then the his father Rusk comes to talk to them and tell her how impressed he is with her, offering to pull some strings at the space colony to allow her a second chance (turns out he is the magnate who owns it, so you best believe he has the power to make this call). This does not go down well with Fabrizio who completely flips out and he says he doesn’t think she should get the opportunity. Regardless, she ends up being successful in the physical, and both of them are required to do one final test (sorta like a virtual reality zero gravity test where they spin them a number of times and get them to do space scenarios). To help her out, her mother engineers a modification which attaches to Selene’s spine. In the programme, Fabrizio ends up fainting and despite a malfunctioning modification which makes it hard for Selene to move, Selene ends up saving him and the test, and you can see this leaves her feeling sort of vindicated because despite not being modified, she was the one who had to help HIM. The end scene is of Selene and her mother at the colony.
So, there’s obviously a big influence on this film by the film Gattaca, which if you haven’t seen you should watch. I liked how real the film felt in terms of the tech. Obviously it wasn’t a very high budget film but I thought that made it charming. I felt like I did want to get behind Selene and her challenges, which I think is a testament to the great writing of this story. I had a couple issues. Firstly I was really curious to know what happened to Fabrizio, did he make it through. I guess it’s one of those things where it doesn’t really matter if that loop is closed or not at the end, and it’s just as good to imagine what became of him but I was still curious. I was also wondering why there weren’t more people shown competing for a position at the end phase. I thought perhaps that spoke to just how challenging it is to get there but it turns out that the film was shot during the pandemic and restrictions made for siginificant challenges in filming! I think all in all this lended itself to the idea that the programme was extremely challenging so it probably worked out in the director’s favour! I wondered what would have happened if Selene hadn’t been given a pass to try again with the physical. If she hadn’t, Fabrizio would have flaked and she wouldn’t have been there to help him, which I guess would have meant NO ONE would have gotten to the colony!
I did question the credibility of their being friends. In an elitist dystopia like this, I wonder if two people from such different backgrounds COULD be close friends, like they appeared to be. Wouldn’t the disparities get in the way of their friendship? Or maybe I’m judging him too harshly, because Selene’s character resonates more with myself and I couldn’t see myself being friends with someone as privileged. Hmm. Anyways, as you know I like when films give me a lot to reflect on, and I liked that this film made me question my own position in society and what I would do. Overall, really enjoyed this short!
This animated film was directed by Lukas von Berg, released in 2021. The premise of the film is that Norman’s wife is laying in hospital dying and in these final moments, he calls for guidance but it’s not exactly what he hoped for. It is suggested that Norman call for religious assistance as she will likely die momentarily. Norman accepts this and is met with a high tech android who speaks very quickly and tells him that he can recite scripture from any religion. The whole process is obviously very exasperating for Norman who tells the android he is Catholic, and in the ensuing chaos, neither of them end up noticing Norman’s wife reach out to him for support and then shortly thereafter, die.
It’s not a super complicated premise but it is incredibly well done. The animation itself is stellar. There’s something so timeless about the style of animation that the creators of this short went for. It looks very hand drawn, which I think lends to that. I think contrary to what you would imagine, a lot of modern animation ends up looking very dated. I think that the more love you put into animation, the more time that is spent meticulously drawing and inking and painting, the more timeless it is… but I am a staunch Miyazaki fan so I guess I would say that. Anyays, there’s something so humorous and tragic about this storyline… that in messing around with technology, we lose out on the human, living experience. I think this message was subtle enough that it didn’t come off as preachy (fnar fnar, religion joke) whereas other stories that focus on this subject matter sometimes do go a little far.. The problem is we have to work with what we have, with means co-existing with technology. Not shunning it.. All in all, a perfect little short.
This film was directed by Soren Bendt, released in 2022. The premise is that a man is on a mission with some comrades but the ship they are in unfortunately crashes and he has to make his way through a mine field. Little is known about the protagonist.. I don’t even remember if he had a name, but he ends up being the sole survivor of the crash. His suit is fast falling apart and he ends up having to steal certain elements for his suit from others who are dead or dying, which is sort of a moral conundrum. He ends up having to fight with his suit to gain control of it, as it comes perilously close to destroying him. Somehow he ends up fooling the suit – whose primary function is to protect him – into defaulting to its secondary objective, i.e. to dismantle these mines. The way that he does so is by basically destroying himself. He steps intentionally onto a mine. And with that, the suit goes off across the land, dismantling the mines.
The contrast between the very beginning of the short where the men are all joyously singing, and then the chaos and aftermath of the crash where you see men strewn this way and that, dead or dying is pretty stark. It’s hard to know in what capacity they are there. Were they prisoners? Were they soldiers? Volunteers? I guess it doesn’t super matter. They are there working for the government in some sort of capacity, but you don’t really know much about them besides their sense of duty. But I really wanted to know where these people were from, what were the mines keeping out, or keeping in? I believe that they were meant to be dismantling mine, which makes me wonder… if the suits were perfectly capable of dismantling the mines by themselves, why did the humans need to be there in the first place? Why bring human beings into a dangerous task that a roboto could do perfectly well? It was also interesting seeing the shift in the man when he realises that there’s no way that he is going to have a happy ending, even after all the struggle to survive, and how he sacrifices himself. Anyways, lots to think about with this one. Beautifully filmed wide, landscape shots. Nice idea. Enjoyed this a lot.
Oh man this film lol. So this was directed by Xiaoli Liu and released 2021. The premise is that three astronauts are stranded in a spaceship with an alien corpse and have to find a way to survive while they wait to get rescued. It’s quite a simple concept. They end up being stranded for quite a long time and they have this conundrem… to eat or not to eat. They’ve been told they have to bring back the corpse for monitoring so the majority of the film is them bickering and it’s really funny/ridiculous. At one point, one of them suggest that they shoot each other to take the temptation off the table and so they don’t ruin the mission, but of course they cannot. They end up agreeing to eat this alien – to their disgust – and all that’s left is a bit of bone that they give to the astronaut when he saves them. They then discover that the alien is essentially a plant. Rejoice!
I don’t have anything really to say about this other than it was very entertaining to watch. Much of the programme was very serious so it was just fun to have a goofy reprise.
This film was directed by Joseph Brett, released in 2021. The premise is that a brother and sister have a reunion picnic at a stone circle in the English countryside. He’s returned from abroad after a failed relationship, and the sister comforts him as they drink and eat. Some time later, the sister has fallen asleep and the brother is looking at the interesting patterns on the stones. It’s sort of like it has mildew or moss in yellows and greens all over it. Soon the pattern appear to move and the brother is entranced by them. The next thing you know, the sister wakes up to find her brother gone. She tries to get everything together to go, probably assuming that he’s left her, and then when she goes to pull the picnic blanket away, the stone is sitting on the blanket and it tears. She looks at it aghast and then looks up and slowly realises what happened. That’s when the film ends.
Omg so spooky. I have chills thinking about that ending. I like that it leaves it open at the end. You don’t know if she ends up being turned to stone too, though it implies she’s about to be turned into stone as well. It doesn’t explain what the stones are, where they came from, if the brother is still alive in there or if he is killed in the process. And it’s all done in this sort of mix of animation and puppetry. I loved that the characters, whilst being British were also Asian ethnicity and you could see little references to both those senses of identity. The little bao buns, the stacked lunchbox. The hot tea in the flask. It’s really unusual to see Asian characters in anything, particularly depicted in this format and it is just really really well done. Also that idea of the stones being the spooky feature is unusual as well. I tried to think of films or TV where I have seen that happen and Medusa came to mind but that was a human/snake turning others into stone. And I thought of Doctor Who with the angels who follow and destroy you… but they were stone angels who devoured others. So, I couldn’t really think of something as unique as this. And lastly I wondered if the brother and sister end up turning others to stone? SPOOKEH!!! I really enjoyed the concept, visuals were amazing. So well done.
This film was directed by Christian Nicolson, released in 2022. The premise is that the main character Stonus finds himself smack in the middle of a group of people embarking on an epic battle when he only came for a free breakfast. The cast is quite sizable for a short film, which is pretty unusual. It’s set in the future, but has a real corny 70s-idea-of-space vibe, like Terry Gilliam meets Star Wars meets New Zealand. Anyways, Stonus realises that the gathering has been called forward to battle, and it is clear that this is a battle they cannot win. There’s a funny moment where this fancy schmancy Spaceman (above picture, right) is talking on his communication device, and tells someone he doesn’t think he’s going to take part on this because it’s not going to end well. Stonus tries to sneak off but then he’s caught and brought back. He offers to blow the battle horn, thinking this will keep him out of harm’s way. Meanwhile, as the action with Stonus is unfolding, a one-eyed ogre is trying to entice a lady ogre. I can’t even describe how ridiculous this side story is and how it looks, but he tries everything to get her attention. In the process, a rock is thrown which lands on Stonus. You’d think that he would be dead but he is actually fine in the end.. and that is genuinely how it is. Oh and the ogre lady ends up getting to ogre man in the end. She clumps him on the head and drags him away lolllll. So weird..
So yeah… goofy as fuck, lighthearted film. It’s definitely got a Monty Python vibe to it and everything looks like it’s been made with paper mache which I enjoy. If I can’t see the vaccum cleaner parts, I don’t wanna know. It was a great contrast to the other shorts in the festival, which as I mentioned before were on the darker or more serious side. This was pure comedy.
This film was directed by Joanny Causse, released in 2021. The premise is that a woman called Leah works for an AI companionship organisation, fielding customer service calls. She appears to have developed feelings for a particular caller and inserts herself manually into what is normally an automative call which uses a complicated system to determine the best path of conversation. She does so without the consent of the caller. She thinks she is hitting it off with the caller but before long he interupts the conversation to ask for client services, and she is forced to switch gears to accept the call, with him not knowing that both are the same person. He tells her he thinks the AI is different and she would never say the things that she has been saying and wants it switched back, that her laugh is annoying and basically is incredibly insulting about Leah. Leah has to just accept it because, you know, she probably shouldn’t have inserted herself into it anyway.
The technology/sci-fi elements of this film are kind of irrelevant because it’s really all about the human connection, which I really enjoyed. She’s absolutely mortified by the caller’s feelings about her, and it feels so uncomfortable to watch, because there are real people behind this tech, and I guess sometimes we forget that. That awkwardness is all too relatable.
This film was directed by Edward J Douglas, released in 2021. The premise of the film is that Jody wants a healthy destraction from a bad breakup with a real toxic douche. She signs up for a 10K training course, led by AI. The film doesn’t really explain how the tech is done but the assumption is she has an implant or a contact lens with the tech in it, implied with comparative shots. I like that this isn’t outright explained but shown; because it’s unnecessary to the plot to know how. I assumed it was an implant because Jody doesn’t seem to be able to just take the tech off, and there are points in this short where you think she should or that she might want to.. Anyways, so the AI trainer is a sort of hologram and is very attractive and fit. He motivates her and most of the scenes show him training with her over an unknown passage of time. Before long, it appears she has become unhealthily obsessed with this. At first it’s a fun distraction where she celebrates herself and feels really good about herself, but she then signs up for the next big challenge (a marathon) and she ends up running every day, watching what she is eating, cutting out communication with friends and work. There’s something so insiduous about the way the AI gradually changes as the story progresses; it reads like he is an abusive domestic partner. And of course, she’s the only person who can see him so it’s not like she can get help. Even when people reach out to her, the AI shuts them out and inevitably she chooses to isolate herself. There are points when she wants to give up and she’s like, no, I’ve had enough, I want to stop and he intentionally changes the scenery and intimidates her into thinking she is somewhere she is not, or about to be harmed. The thing is you see this behaviour from the AI when she is tired early on in the film and he makes it seem like zombies are chasing her… and at the time you think ho ho ho that’s funny, and Jody laughs about it, but the way that behaviour escalates is so spooky. She ends up refusing to continue and he stops physically being there in her line of sight. She tries to compete in a marathon without his help, thinking maybe she can do it of her own volition (all the while she can hear him sort of taunting her in her head). She ends up making it to the end. The last scene is where the AI is encouraging her to sign up for an ironman comp, and you never see what she decides to do.
Really liked the concept. It’s a nice spin on this theme of tech sort of taking over our lives, and I like how it starts really innocuous and becomes much more spooky as the story progresses. I kind of assumed that she does end up going to the next stage because by that point she is so addicted to the pain she is in. Very uncomfortable to watch in the best possible way.
This film was directed by Rupert Ratcliffe, released in 2021. The premise is that a man is very lonely. He obviously works for a big organisation and is very well paid. He has been restricted from seeing his child from a previous relationship, and it is apparently the child’s birthday. You can sense the desparation in this man. He vocalises how unfair it is that his ex is preventing him from seeing his child, and is upset that her new partner has a better relationship with the kid than he has. So throughout this film, you see him kind of beating himself up about this. He asks his AI to call this woman mimicing him, because he wants to talk to his child and numerous attempts to contact the ex have been ignored. The AI says it’s against policy but that it might be possible if he upgrades. The man agrees, but decides instead that he cannot take it anymore and decides to hang himself. In the process of doing that, he hears the AI call his ex and she apologises for mistreating him and promises that he can have a relationship with his child. The film ends with the man dead.
Oh man this film is so tragic and really traumatizing because you see him reacting as he realises he has made a terrible mistake that he cannot undo. It made me wonder, hy was it the AI was able to talk his ex into reconciling in this way, where the real human had failed? It seemed like it was well within his power to turn his relationship with his ex around, if he had only held on for a little bit longer. Heartbreaking film. The tech seems secondary to the main focus of the film which is the theme of isolation and mental health but I guess this is a common theme with tech. Over-reliance of tech instead of real human connection is so isolating, and I guess this is the particular outcome of this difficult situation.
This film was directed by Rebekah Fortune, released in 2021. The premise is that a young couple with Down’s syndrome want to adopt an AI baby and are denied one (by a very surprising character/actress… the great Amanda Abbington.. I actually did a squee when I saw her). Presumably the couple have been unable to carry their own birth child or it is common for people in this dystopian future to be unable to carry. Abbington’s character tells them they are not the right calibre of person to look after such a baby because of their disability. Honestly it’s pretty upsetting to hear her turn them down in this prejudicial way, and I fully believed her to be a dick in this role. A rogue android, dressed as a sort of matron, ends up helping them get an AI baby and the end scenes are of the couple running away, pursured by Abbington’s drones.
There’s a lot of questions I had about about why this particular android turned on the overlord. Like was there something wrong with its circuitry? Or does it have the autonomy to choose? On the outside it seemed very animatronic and thoughtless. There wasn’t much to the film, but the idea of being denied something that is a human right because of something out of the couple’s control, something which has no bearing on their abilities to parent, was jarring. I imagine it speaks to a lot of people with disabilities in a very real and present-day sort of way. I’d really like to see more of this particular film because it was so short and want to know they escaped.
This film was directed by Susumu Kimura, released in 2021. The premise of the film is that Chase is an artist and she takes a job to design a poster for an ad campaign which turns out to be total propaganda… Chase is a single parent with two children trying to make ends meet. In the first scene, you see her making lunch for her children and putting two slices of bread and the tiniest squares of cheese in the middle to spread out what seems to be incredibly limited resources. So obviously they are very poor. At first it seems like the norm in this world as everything is dusty and lots of people are without, but then when you see the more affluent classes, you see that is not the case… The world she lives in relies on this software which says your age and status in the world. Everywhere she goes, you can see posters for something called The Mountain. It’s painted in a fantastical way like a mecca for old people and characters in the film talk about their perspective of the place, that it must be like some sort of fun party. In one scene, Chase is on a bus, and it is stopped by police who check everyone’s wrist IDs and end up hauling an older man off, presumably to take him to The Mountain. He protests, saying he had wanted to go to the river. It’s not really clear what these things mean at this point, but obviously there’s something weird going on. Chase has a close relationship with the people in her community, and you can see she has empathy for her older neighbours, who offer to help her. Anyways, so she shows the execs she is freelancing for this poster art she has made for them which is of an older person on the back of someone else with wording on it like devotion or dedication (I can’t remember, but that sentiment). At first they are mocking of it, but then Chase explains the story behind it, that when her grandmother was old, she was carried to The Mountain so her family would not starve and that this sacrifice was a measure of devotion to one’s society. The executives thought that was amusing and she is paid for the work. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that this actually happened, and it shows the true nature of The Mountain. That in this dystopia, older generations are ritualistically sacrificed so that there are more resources to go round for the rest of the population. You never get to see the gruesome end of these older peeps (like in the film Midsommar) but the premises they are taken to near The Mountain are ominous-looking enough that I was certain that it was much like a concentration camp. The end scene is of Chase taking her elderly neighbour to the supposed safety of The River to escape, and Chase’s defiant face as you hear the authorities approaching.
This was one of my top faves from the festival. It’s really well shot and I think this could (and should) be turned into a full feature film. I really think that it has good bones and I want to know more! Like does Chase take on the government? Who is behind this? Why did they take this path in the first place? Does her neighbour survive? What actually happens to people who get taken to The Mountain? The ominous peak of the mountain, the way that it looms in the shots is so spooky, and the film- as do I – yells: Please, please give me more. Excellent film.
Excellent monologue in ‘The last mechanic’ – not one of my faves but really well acted.
Bunker: The last fleet – Probably the only film in the festival which featured indigenous peoples. Entertaining. Mad max vibes but better. Super badass characters.
As ever, thanks Sci-Fi-London.com to bringing so many entertaining and thought-provoking films to my life <3 For more stuffs from SciFiLondon, click here for their website.
The Innocents was directed by Eskil Vogt, and released in 2021. It was the first feature film of the 2022 sci-fi-london.com festival. It’s a Norwegian/Finnish film.
In the beginning of the film, a family have moved to a new area in what I believe is rural Norway. The family is made up of a mother and father (you never learn what their names are) and their two children Ida and Anna. Anna is the eldest of the two and is a non-verbal autistic child, probably early teens, and her younger sister is Ida. It’s clear from the start that Ida has an almost sadistic quality to her personality, as she will often pinch Anna to try to get a response from her but Anna, of course, cannot talk. When they move in it’s the summer so the block they live in is very quiet with very few families present, and they grapple with living in this new area. One of the first scenes is where Ida stands by the bank of a small lake and it is across the water that she sees a young boy, who she will later come to learn is Ben.
Ida’s mother encourages her to go play in the local area and she does so. She formally meets Ben, who is similarly a loner and pretty soon they are spending many days together playing. Soon Ida learns that Ben has some sort of magic ability to move things with his mind which he demonstrates to Ida. They seem to have a similar sadism and there is a traumatising scene where they drop a kitten down a stairwell in glee (Ben uses it as practice for his abilities) but when Ida realises the kitten is actually hurt and sees Ben crush its skull, she knows that they have gone to far and she begins to distance herself from him.
One day, Ida’s mother asks her to take Anna with her out to play. Anna then befriends a girl called Aisha who also appears to have a special ability which allows her to connect with Anna. Aisha is able to hear what Anna is saying in her mind and feel what she’s feeling, and soon she is even able to assist Anna in talking. There’s a couple scenes where Aisha mouths words and Anna is then able to say them herself which is revealed eventually to Ida and Anna’s parents (though they are unaware that mystical powers have anything to do with why this has happened). Aisha, Anna, Ida and Ben then spend time together; I’m guessing all is forgiven between Ida and Ben’s earlier kitten episode. However there is a clash when Ben becomes angry and lashes out. Anna squares up to Ben in that moment, as he threatens to use his powers to hurt Aisha, and it is clear that Anna bestows similar powers to Ben. The clash causes a ripple forcing a tree to fall and part of it goes into Anna’s leg. Ben runs off, and Ida/Aisha take Anna home. Anna’s mother is angry at Ida for not saying how this happened and blames her for not having looked after her properly (which she later apologises about).
We see snapshots of Ben’s life behind the scenes with his mother. It seems like his mother is quite abusive towards him. At one point he snaps, and while his mother is boiling a pot of water, we see him use his powers to pour the boiling pot of water onto his mum and smash the pot over her head. She slowly dies on the kitchen floor while he just sort of looks on. Later we see moments of regret in Ben but overall, he appears to be quite nonchalant about the whole ordeal.
Tension is obviously building, and Ben is becoming obviously progressively more dangerous. We see him break the leg of another child, and later take over the body of an adult man to murder another young boy from the block. Aisha and Anna tell Ida that they have to stop Ben, that he is out of control and they want her help but Ida refuses. Before they can, Ben takes over the body of Aisha’s mother and forces her to violently stab Aisha to death. Without Aisha, Anna goes back to being non-verbal. In her frustration and concern now that Aisha/Anna can no longer protect them, and worrying that Ben will be coming for them, Ida decides that she’s going to take matters into her own hands and lures Ben to an overpass where she pushes him off the side. She is seen by an adult and bolts. Ben, unhurt, then pursues her and in the process Ida is hit by a car and breaks her leg.
The latter section of the film is the aftermath. Ida returns from hospital but the threat of Ben is still very real. Summer rolls over, and families have returned from their holidays by this point so the streets are bubbling with families. Anna leaves the flat to finally confront Ben, and Ida pursues with her cast and crutches (before eventually tearing at it to allow her to get to her sister). She finds Anna by the bank of the small lake in the playground area and holds Anna’s hand in a sort of united front against Ben (the proximity to the lake is reminiscent of the early scene, where Ida first sees Ben). There is a silent and tense stare-down and you can see ripples forming on the surface of the water. Ben then stumbles backwards to this swing set, looking wildly around the block; it appears that other children have abilities too and they are closely watching Ben. There is a crescendo of sound until finally Ben slumps in the seat of a swing, presumably murdered by Anna and co. And then everyone goes back to their normal activities and the camera pans away.
So, I think the first thing to acknowledge is that there is something problematic about this film, in that the autistic character, Anna, was actually played by a neuro-typical (not autistic) actress. This comes up so much in film. I do think she acted fantastically and this is not a gripe at the actress at all, but the disabled community often call for disabled characters to be played by disabled actors. The reason for this is non-disabled actors often act those characters in over-the-top ways that can be very harmful to disabled people. Disabled actors are also more likely to reflect autistic traits in a way where it will be treated with respect, and not make a caricature out of autistic/disabled people.. Not to mention that representation is so important. There are plenty roles of neuro-typical, able-bodied characters out there… That’s not to say that a non-disabled person can’t treat a role like this with respect, and to be fair to Alva Brynsmo Ramstad she honestly played this character so so well, but I do think that it’s important to acknowledge this and advocate for authentic representation.
Really loved that Aisha’s character was played by Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, which is a young actess with vitiligo, a condition which is not really represented in film.
The film was held up basically by four children, ranging from like 8 years old to <16. I think often when you see child actors in film, they overact in a way that doesn’t seem believable but with this film, I was so taken by these kids. They act with a certain gravitas that only comes with much older actors, yet they were totally believable and really held my attention in a way that I would not have expected from child actors. So that just goes to show how capable these actors and actresses were.
I really liked that there were adults in this film but it was almost like they were absent, you know? I think that was done intentionally to put real focus on these children, and that if the adults would have taken more of a front stage approach, the dynamic would have shifted somewhat. Like you would have automatically seen them in more of a Parent-Child dynamic which would have taken away the strength and self reliance of those characters. There definitely were moments of that… like where Ida and her mother embrace close to the end of the film… Thinking about it, I think that’s probably how they did that. There were very few scenes in the film where adults and children had physical closeness, like you would expect in a Parent-Child dynamic, so I think that lended itself to this approach to make the children the focal point. Most of the times where the adults came into contact with the kids, it was shrouded in tragedy (until the summer families returned and then there were lots of kiddos and parents and something shifted in that part of the film). The adults weren’t totally gone, and you got to see a little bit of their own worries in that world, but they definitely took a back seat to the kiddos.
I guess another criticism I would have of this film is their choice of the actor who plays Ben being the baddie. Like yes, he is a boy and it’s great that they’re putting a focus firstly on girls and disabled characters as the heroines in this film, but he is a Person of Colour… AND not only that but he is a darker skin toned POC, as with his mother who was physically abusive to his character. Aisha was also a POC but had lighter skin. Her mother had darker skin but also inevitably murders Aisha. Now you may not understand why that’s a problem, but from what I understand, People of Colour routinely either don’t see themselves in film or when they do see themselves they are the aggressors, or the terrorists, or a monster, something or someone to be frightened about, or a caricature of person. So their choices of who played what, and what they ended up doing and how they were portrayed as the story unfolded didn’t sit all that well with me, despite thinking that the actors in those roles were damn good at their job.
I like that you never really know why these children have these powers and the characters approach it in a way that’s just so very childlike. I guess I’m used to Marvel or DC films where someone discovers they have a new power, then they do a montage where they are learning about their power and showing it off to people or trying to hide it. However in this film, it’s approached in such a matter-of-fact sort of way where the origin isn’t a focus. It’s just instantly accepted that there is something about this place that means some children have special abilities. It’s a very refreshing approach.
I think it is so important that Anna is the one who ends up being the saviour in this film, with her being a disabled character, and I like that even though early on it seems like Anna can only really take on Ben with Aisha’s help, later it turns out she had strength all along and that she didn’t need Aisha at all to defeat Ben. Although I wonder if the onlookers had any part to play. I suspect not because you see those ripples coming off of Anna and hitting the lake so I think that power is genuinely being generated just by her.
And I wonder what happened in the aftermath, like what happened when they discovered Ben’s mother’s body? And why did did the adults have zero awareness that the kiddos in this block were a little unusual and why that might be and why all these weird tragedies were spontaneously happening at the same time? So mysterious.
So overall, there’s a lot to think about with this film. I was say it was likely my favourite film of the festival and it blew me away. Acted well. Great concept. Well written. Sometimes I thought maybe it might be too slow because it was very Nordic, in that slow paced, quiet sort of way, but I think on balance none of that took anything away from the film. It actually allowed it to breathe and I felt like I was so invested in the film in those moments of stillness. Like I said in another blog, I was really stoked to see that this film is now streaming, and I wish the film the greatest success.
“What are we gonna do, ask him to walk out of the airlock?”
Oh man, I meant to do a post about this one film a long time ago when I watched it back in June 2021.. Stowaway is a science fiction thriller which came out in 2021. You can see it on Netflix now, if you want to. I really meant to do a post about it straight away when I saw it because it had a big impact on me, but life took over, and I kept saying I would write something but never did. So, anyway, I’m doing that now; here I am writing a post about this!
So, just to give a little synopsis about the film, here goes!
The film stars some pretty big names in Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette and Shamier Anderson. It’s directed by Joe Penna and written by both Joe and Ryan Morrison.
The story is about a crew of three people who are on a two-year mission to Mars, headed/piloted by Toni Collette’s character, a biologist in Daniel Dae Kim and Anna’s character as the medical researcher, Zoe. They take off from Earth and quickly find themselves in trouble when Michael, a stowaway, is found unconscious in a module somewhere in the ship sort of entangled in something that takes carbon dioxide from the air. As he falls from this module, he ends up destroying it which basically renders the ship unable to scrub carbon dioxide from it, so the longer that this extra person exists on the ship, the higher likelihood there is that they will suffocate. They move quickly to trying to think of various ways in order to scrub the CO2 from the air such as using lithium hydroxide canisters but the load is too much for them to handle. David then sacrifices part of his algae experiment which is literally the whole reason for the mission. Half of the algae die in the process and only provides enough CO2 scrubbing for a third person. Mission control suggests they try a dangerous mission to recover liquid oxygen from the spent upper stage rocket, which is not the ideal situation because it is so darn risky. So they spend time considering their options including whether to sacrifice Michael. Eventually they run out of time… all the algae has died which means they don’t have an option here. Presented with this, both Zoe and Daniel volunteer to try to retrieve the liquid oxygen. The mission is a total failure – predictably – and they barely make it back alive. Zoe ends up sacrificing herself, goes back to retrieve the canister, exposing herself to a lethal amount of radiation and the last scene is her looking at the stars and succumbing to death.
So, what did I think this film?
I think it’s an interesting take on a conundrum, which I’m sure we’ve all seen, where there’s a wild trolley hurtling towards a split track and you are given a scenario of either killing one person who you don’t know or many who you do. What do you do? If Star Trek and Spock have taught me anything, it is that the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few and this is the core argument throughout much of the film.
I find it very fitting that Anna Kendrick’s character being a medical professional and therefore altruistic role ends up both pleading for a caring outcome (rather than killing Michael) and ends up herself volunteering to what is ultimately her own demise. I guess all the characters in this live up to the roles that they play and in the ways in which they ultimately approach this challenge. Toni’s character leads them to this difficult solution… Daniel’s character being the scientist tries to come to a scientific solution.. Anna’s character, as mentioned, takes on the caregiver role. And Shamier’s character Michael is the innocent in this situation; being the least experienced of the team. I found it interesting as well that one of the reasons for Anna’s character to sacrifice herself is that she did not have a family and I think that plays into an archaic gender role. Toni and Daniel’s characters can’t sacrifice themselves because they are core to the mission. One of the suggestions is that as Anna’s character does not have a family, that this makes her the preferred candidate. Does that devalue her as a person? It seems like that is implied. I guess it would be almost too easy for Michael, the person who stowed away, to sacrifice himself. It would be quite a boring ending.
I also found it interesting that basically all of the algae had died because of this situation, so their whole reason for going to Mars at all (for, I assume, terraforming Mars) is destroyed.. It makes me wonder what happened afterwards when they got to Mars. I mean, it’s sort of implied that they would have gotten to Mars in the end because the end of the film is Anna Kendrick looking out at the stars and you can faintly see Mars in the distance. It feels hopeful despite this great tragedy. But then when they get there, what are they even gonna do? Are they just gonna turn around and go back? I always find this question of terraforming other planets quite ridiculous anyway… It’s an age old theme but I find it so silly because we have a perfectly habitable planet that we live on right now but we just treat it like shit. If we just looked after the planet that we lived on, perhaps we wouldn’t need to have conversations about terraforming anything because the planet that we live on literally has everything that we need in abundance.
I really like that they never truly address why Michael has stowed in the ship because it almost seems irrelevant. It’s a mystery but knowing ‘why’ would not actually help them in their situation. I mean, I assume Michael was desperate to be part of this mission and that’s why this happened but equally he could have been fixing something and got stuck there in the module. Often in films where there is a stowaway, usually they’re young, maybe they’re trying to run away from something, or it’s something or someone evil putting the crew in danger intentionally. And so I think this was a really nice twist because this character Michael was actually very innocent. You can tell he is very troubled by his presence causing such a consequence, and that he did not wish to hurt anyone.
So all in all, simple concept and interesting moral conundrum. Well acted. At times stunning CGI. But quite a predictable film I would say. Still worth the watch.
No quote this time so you’ll have to make do with a descriptive intro haha
Voted this year’s sci-fi-london.com film festival ‘short film’ favourite, I was really stoked that the fest decided to pair this film on Saturday evening alongside their final feature of the day (I’ll put my review up for the feature separately). I’ve not had a chance to see any of the shorts in person due to my work schedule this year. Thankfully, through the power of technology, Sci Fi London will be sharing their 2021 short film selection online from 27th October until 31st. You can get a pass here for only £12. I’m gonna be doing the same and will share some short reviews on this site for those films.
Okay, back to Scent of a Forest!
This film was directed by Servaes Dewispelaere and was his BA degree project, which is really impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes in future. It centres on a young woman called Ana, played by Eliza Stuyck, who works in a scent shop. It’s clear that in this dystopian world, the natural worldly things that we take for granted like trees, forests, beaches and so on are all gone. It’s never explained what has happened and the director didn’t explain their interpretation about this in the Q&A either, but it could be some sort of ecological disaster or perhaps nuclear fallout. Regardless, people appear to be dosing themselves with a golden orb drug which when broken, emits a scent of various things which no longer exist in this time. The only catch is that to buy this little orb, you need to sell your soul.
Ana and her boyfriend Peter, played by Luca Persan, talk about the drug. Peter brings Ana to his mother to show him the effects of the drug. Peter’s mother is almost comatose and is seen spooning water into her mouth like it is soup, but comes alive with dance when she inhales the drug in front of them. Peter and Ana are seen staring at the ensuing dance in a series of artistic shots. I particularly liked the shot of Peter seen watching his mother through a mirror reflection. Ana then admits to Peter that she sold her soul months back in order to have the drug. The final scene shows Peter buying the drug, sold to him by Ana who responds to him coldly, and it cuts to birdsong for the credits.
This is a really beautifully done short. It’s pretty unusual for me to get caught up in shorts, typically, but this one really pulled me in. It’s a great concept and not one many directors tend to tackle because obviously conveying scent in film is hard. What I liked about the way this director did it is that the prolonged effects of using this drug totally ravaged the body, so the stark difference between pre-smell to post-smell was visually obvious in that these people went from being non-respondent to dancing rhythmically, and the dances were as unique as we all are. For instance when Peter’s mum dances, it’s quite a manic style I guess, whereas Ana’s dance is more graceful. Obviously this drug, whatever it is, helps these people get through the days so they don’t really care that they sold their souls to get it. It seems that reality is an ugly place it exist in, in this dystopia.
The living quarters of Peter’s mum, which seemed to be an underground bunker and the dark/underground vibe that the film gave off implied, at least to me, that there had been nuclear fallout. Maybe all the forests burned down. I don’t remember there being any sunlight but maybe that’s just the impression I got; but definitely most of the filming if not all was either inside or in darkness. And with the end credits rolling the way they did with the birdsong, it had a strange effect on me as the viewer in that I could almost smell the forest as I expect Peter did. There’s something about certain cues as far as sounds go that can transport you to certain smells and visa versa, so this was a really cool device.
So all in all, excellent short. Not surprised it was voted the best short of the fest. Really looking forward to seeing more from Dewispelaere.
“Well, gentlemen, now what? Things are going okay so far, aren’t they?”
This is another one of those films that I watched MONTHS ago and didn’t have the capacity to blog about at the time, so here goes NOTHINK!
This sci-fi comedy film, directed by Martha Coolidge, stars Val Kilmer and Gabriel Jarret. It’s about a bunch of nerd-bros at a science and engineering university. Kilmer’s character Chris Knight is working on a science project for his degree which involves LASERSSSSSS but little does he know that his professor has been covertly working with the CIA to develop that project into a weapon. Not only that but one which would allow them to do nefarious things FROM SPACE!!! Chris is roomed with a bright, young high school student called Mitch who he shows the ropes to, which seems to involve bullying him (I guess it was a different time eh…?), a lot of partays and foam and drinking and getting up to no good. And then there’s a mysterious character who keeps disappearing into their wardrobe which makes it like some weird version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Basically it all comes down to this final project which goes through twists and turns involving sabotage by a fellow student interspersed with some 80s tunes and montages. Eventually Chris nails the design which pleases his professor who then steals the laser. Chris learns about the true nature of the task too late and realises the laser is gone! There’s a weird, goofy bit where they put a radio transmitter into the mouth of their fellow student to learn more about this plot to get the location of an air force base. They reprogram the machine so the laser points to a prism which ends up exploding a bunch of popcorn in the professors home. SUCCESS! **jumps mid-air with a fist punched to the air so you know it’s a REAL success, one fit for a REAL genius! HUZZAH! ETC!**
So… what an odd film. I don’t have too much to say about it; it’s not a complex film, and I don’t have complex feelings about it.
I watched this with my Plex Film Club buddies. I’ve probably mentioned them before. HEY BUDS!
This is exactly the kind of film you need to watch with friends because it is so so so goofy that if you watch it alone, you won’t make it to the end.
It’s typical of a lot of the more corny 80s science fiction in that it follows the same sort of formula. There’s a humorous, ‘dashing’ lead who outsmarts them all with just a few montages set to a synthy soundtrack. Somewhere in the mix is a foe, a bunch of loyal friends, one girl or woman to act as the romantic storyline and in the end the lead + pals always win, and the foe is ridiculed. HOW THEY LAUGH HO HO HO. I think if I hadn’t seen so many films that follow this same formula, I would be more enthusiastic about it, but I think it was missing something for me. I guess I am comparing it to other similar sciencey protagonist storyline films of its time like WarGames which ended up way more entertaining and which I hold in higher regard. Also I would say I’ve seen Val Kilmer – in my eyes – at his best later on in his career through Willow and even Batman, so for lots of reasons this film feels pretty juvenile. But I guess what can you expect from a film labelling itself REAL GENIUS. Say the title as if you are Trevor Noah mimicking Donald Trump. I dare you. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the film.
Overall, it was enjoyable and one to watch with the lads. Fun, 80s white Americana nostalgia if you like that sorta thing, but nothing really to write home about and it hasn’t stood the test of time for me. Soz.
“The box contains us. The box contains everything. And inside the box, is another box.”
Oh man. I usually write these little posts straight after I finish a film or TV show but life has been a little strange of late so I hadn’t had the chance. Therefore my memory of the comings and going of this show are a little hazy but here goes…
This show centres around a high tech department (DEVs) of a company called Amaya, run by Nick Offerman’s character named Forest. Forest has various ‘disciples’ who, it would appear, would do almost anything to protect Forest and the company, and you quickly learn that Amaya seems to operate ‘above the law’ helped by a close relationship with the government. Though he won’t admit it, much of the impetus behind Forest’s vision for Amaya is to turn back time and absolve himself of a terrible tragedy which took the lives of his wife and child.
There are going to be big SPOILERS from now on so look awayyyy.
Okay, so with that in mind, the story begins with a character called Sergei who is a bright coder with great potential. He is dating a woman called Lily who is a fellow engineer at the same company. Sergei is invited to progress to the DEVs department but on his first day attempts to steal information, which triggers a MASSIVE chain of events starting with his death and affecting a great many people. Lily attempts to uncover the truth with the help, weirdly, of her jilted ex-partner, all while being pursued by Kenton – Forest’s very own version of Odd Job – trained in cleaning up aka murdering problematic people.
There’s also a sub-plot in there involving Russian spies, a very cute worker-friendship between Stewart and Langdon, a tense romantic energy between Forest and Katie (his chief engineer) and as the story goes we uncover more and more about what this extraordinary machine in their department can do… which as it turns out is a mix between televising (to an nth degree of certainty) the past or potentially representing a multi-verse of potential outcomes… it’s not entirely clear, but it is clear that it is extraordinary!
I was also super excited to see a character I perceived as trans or potentially non binary in the show through character Langdon, only to find out that this was not the intention. In addition, the actor was in fact a cis women so was a little confusing about this choice but apparently Garland just wanted to cast a cis gendered woman in that role and it’s as simple as that. Very happy to see Janet Mock playing the senator in this show though <3
What’s so intriguing to me about this show is how it is largely about death. There’s something hopeful about the way that the Amaya engineers are looking to this machine and it’s possibilities but the series starts with death and ends with death, and death is peppered throughout. It’s in both super violent, brutal and dark ways, in schrodinger’s cat take-a-chance sort of ways and then also more matter-of-factly (like here is a dead mouse… it is dead…) scientific representation of death. But even though it is dark, I never came away from watching it feeling put off by the amount of death there was. And I think that is a testiment to how exciting and novel the show turned out to be. Also, having recently read the book ‘The Space Between Worlds’ by Micaiah Johnson which also explores multiverses and the infinitesimal choices in our lives that make massive impacts on the people we turn out to be, it was super interesting to see an alternative viewpoint on this theme so soon after. It’s kind of mindblowing when you think how your life could have changed if you took a different bus one day, or if your parents had not met or things like that. I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately since reading Kindred by Octavia E Butler as well, in light of my own families struggle for survival on both the maternal and paternal side. What if my maternal ancestors had been slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire and not made it to safety on my mum’s side? What if my Chinese grandad never made it on the boat to the Caribbean? What if my great great grandad was murdered by his enslaver or died on the boat over from Africa, or my great great grandmothers line had been wiped out when the English and French colonists murdered her tribe. It boggles my mind how precious life is, and how rare and lucky we all are to be here today and read these silly words about some TV show! haha
Anyways, enough of the deep stuff.
I know Garland has a reputation for being a bit pretentious and I can see some thinking it’s a bit too slow or a bit much or a bit flat or monochrome, but I really enjoyed this show. It was heartbreaking, captivating and at times really beautiful. Not to mention the soundtrack. I joke about the making of the soundscape on my insta/tiktok, but there is something to be said about having a film director produce a TV show, and the results are similar to that of The Mandalorian which had the same dealio, in that it creates epic, cinematic TV shows. Not saying I liked it as much as Mando tho. haha
So in all, really enjoyable show. Well done. Exciting. Very sexy lighting and look to the show. Really confused about the comments from viewers calling it an indulgent show tbh. ALL OF FILM AND TV IS INDULGENT. IT’S A CHEEKY BONUS! IT’S NOT NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL, OF COURSE IT IS INDULGENT! IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO CONTINUE WATCHING APART FROM YOURSELFFFFFF. Unless there is a ‘Clockwork Orange’ thing going on here… in which case I’m sorry, but there’s worse shows to be forced to watch. I can think of a few at least (**COUGH** Replicas **COUGH**) Anyways, well worth a watch.
“The only thing more dangerous than a man who can’t get what he wants, is a man who can get whatever he wants.”
Not to be confused with one of the worst films of all time with the same name, The Room, directed by Christian Volckman, follows Matt and Kate as they embark on the exciting new venture of HOMEOWNING. Matt is some sort of artist which seems pretty irrelevant tbh and they talk about how he’s gonna make a shit-tonne of money one day so she can stay at home. Which she kinda does anyway… Anyways, back to the plot! They move into a massive, old manor and as they are decorating realise that they have a strange room in there that appears to give you everything you wish. So they go on a bit of a bender before realising that the thing they truly wish for is the one thing they can’t have… a baby. Before long they realise that nothing created in ‘The Room’ can survive outside; that there is some sort of mystic power that exists only in the house. Matt, meanwhile, seeks to find answers from someone called John Doe, the previous occupant of the house who reportedly murdered his parents who tells him that in order to live, his parents had to die (suggesting that anything made in the room has to kill its creators in order to live) like some sort of ultimate sacrifice.
Kate wishes for a baby and starts to care for it like her own, calling it Shane. Over time we see the child grow older, completely cut off from the world. They tell Shane that he cannot go outside because it’s not safe to do so. Tensions grow stronger over time and in one moment of rage, Shane manages to get outside and ages rapidly and painfully.
Soon the kid learns about the room and intentionally ages himself into the body of man (whilst still having the mind of a child). He fights Matt and knocks both parents out before taking on the guise of Matt, pretending that the child had in fact died in combat. Then ensues a long scene of the real Matt trying to find Kate, and both of them running through a labyrinth of houses being chased by Shane, all within The Room. Eventually, they manage to beat the kiddo and make it out alive.
Or do they?
I found this film fairly enjoyable. I thought it was a pretty decent film and a good premise, quite tense, helped by the growing tensions of these three characters locked away in a small space.
I enjoyed that once Matt and Kate had worn out the novelty of the room and the capitalist desires they initially had, that they turned to more wholesome desires. Just goes to show how quickly that sort of meaninglessness can burn.
There’s one scene where Shane(?) is trying to get into the door – Matt has removed the key and locked it away – and he breaks down the panels next to the door and crawls through tree roots, which it turns out are intertwined throughout the house. Something about that scene, and the look of the door to the room, how Matt initially finds it and the key itself really reminded me of this 2010 horror/thriller ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’ starring Katie Holmes. In fact, in that film, Katie and her family move into an old manor. There’s vines and shrubbery everywhere. They tear down a wall hiding THE SCARY DOOR to a room not with wishes, but instead spooky toothfairies… so quite a different film but it had very much the same feel to it, aka secret door thriller. There’s something about that old adage, ‘curiosity killed the cat’, in these types of films. You see the characters punished for their curiosity by opening the door that obviously shouldn’t be opened… it’s literally the oldest story in the book, you know the one where Eve was told not to eat the apple and she did, and then Adam and Eve were banished from heaven… or when Pandora opens the box she’s told not to open and unleashes all the evils unto the world. It’s a strange trope to keep repeating in horror or thriller films because humans are curious by nature, and our curiosity literally invented the wheel and other cool shit, so to repeatedly punish ourselves through these films is pretty humorous to me.
I liked the twist at the end, though I gotta say I saw it coming and I wish it was a little more subtle than it played out. Lots of directors are following in Christopher Nolan’s shoes, post-Inception, which really set the/a bar in terms of how thrillers should be. It feels like in the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of thrillers which hamfisted their way through endings with a OR IS IT moment, which could have been way. more. subtle. I really enjoy the ones that get it right, because they get me thinking a lot more, or reading into moments questioning what I think I saw a lot more. This was not one of those films… it was more like IS IT? YES IT IS. No questions. TBH I completely forgot I watched this film within about four days of having watched it, so even though overall I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it whilst I was watching it, it became pretty forgettable.
Overall, enjoyable film but pretty formulaic. I read someone review this as an act of genius, but perhaps they were watching a different film, because that’s not the impression I got. Still worth a watch, but take it with a pinch of salt!
This show turned up on my Netflix account recently and not knowing anything about it, my partner and I thought we would give it a try. It seemed to really tick my partner’s box in terms of type of shows she tends to watch whereas for me, I prefer sci-fi (obvs) but we gave it a watch and the show was really surprising. There are big spoilers in this post so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The show started out with a sexy liaison between Louise and David who meet by chance in a bar when Louise’s friend stands her up. Their chemistry is palpable and they share – DUN DUN DUHHH – a kiss before David calls it off and leaves abruptly. The next day Louise goes into work and realises that David is – DUN DUN DUAHHHHHH – her new boss! And he’s – DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHHH – married! They agree to move past it but obviously it keeps happening over and over again and turns into a full blown affair. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story about David’s wife Adele which paints David in this controlling light. Adele has no control over her own life which David sees to, calling her multiple times a day to check in on her and prescribing her heavy medication. Adele intentionally runs into Louise and befriends her, thus beginning a very weird love triangle where both Adele and David are hiding the fact they are friends with or seeing Louise, and Louise is also omitting this to both. Adele appears to be both vulnerable and mentally unstable and it’s hard to know what’s really happening. I feel like the story tries to force to you to question morality because of all these different scenarios that present themselves paint the main characters in this polarised way, but all the characters in this show are so flawed. The ex boyf, the best friend, David, Adele, Louise. The only pure character is Louise’s son who was the most adorable little boy <3
As the story unfolds, you see more and more pieces in this puzzle. We learn that Adele was in a mental institution, that her parents died in mysterious circumstances leaving her a massive mansion and grounds, that David was suspected of having something to do with their murder as he rescues her from this fire that has killed them. And then there’s this character Rob who you’re really not sure how he fits into it. He meets Adele in the mental institution and talks of Adele being like his escapism so when she is released from the hospital and invites him to the mansion, he jumps at the chance.
And then stuff starts getting REALLY REALLY weird out of the blue. It turns out that Adele has this supernatural ability to leave her body and go on adventures. She confides this in Rob who she has been coaching all along. Similarly in present day timeline, she clandestinely teaches Louise how to do this and gradually Louise pieces together that Adele knows about her and David because she has been watching them this whole time using her weird powers and that she might be dangerous.
We find out that David helped Adele cover up the death of Rob which David eventually owns up to Louise and goes to the police. Then right at the end, Louise realises that Adele is trying to take her life. Louise uses the paranormal abilities to jump into Adele’s body hoping to save her only to discover it’s a trap and Adele is definitely not who we think she is.
I really thought this was just going to be another sexy show about two cheating adults who can’t get enough of each other and the more I watched, the more it unfurled into this fantastical, paranormal thriller. I thought it was a pretty inventive storyline with a nice twisty ending, but then I didn’t like how polar the story was trying to paint the actions of the characters. Additionally, I really didn’t like how much they used old tropes in TV and film, like the ‘crazy wife’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous secretary’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous POC’ in fact! Even the cold and abusive way that David was acting in this, the storyline turned it around as if he was only acting that way because he was scared, poor him. He was only controlling his wife and cheating on her and cutting her off from the outside world because he was scared, which I don’t really buy. There’s this one scene where he’s like ‘thank you, you saved me, I’m going to march right to the police’ and he just walks off into Kings Cross station through open barriers and I half expected him to just disappear and never return. TBH I felt like they let him off really too easily given that he covered up what turned out to be a murder. He would have been an accessory if this were real, but instead he and ‘Louise’ lived happily ever after………
That said, I did enjoy watching the show. It was pretty entertaining and such a messy drama with such broken characters. The relationship between David and Louise is so sexy that it’s easy to get drawn into. I think more could have been done to develop the main characters so that they could be more nuanced, more colourful but I liked the Stepford wife gone wrong vibe and the twist. Additionally both performance from Louise and Adele were stellar. The paranormal aspect felt a bit tacked on; it hid under a nightmare remedy guise and I wish more had been made of it to show the impact of it on David and Adele’s relationship. For instance, David talks late in the series about how Adele appears to ‘know things she shouldn’t’ but earlier on when Louise and David are cheating, he doesn’t seem to mind or worry about that which seems inconsistent. In any case, enjoyable and spooky series and like Sharronda from ‘Pay or Wait’ says, Louise should have minded her own BIZNEZ! I’m glad I watched it.
Hai, what’s new with you?! SOPHFIFEST.com has some new changes. Check them out 🙂
Events have moved from FACEBOOK.com and are now at MEETUP.com! Users can get easy notifications about upcoming events and join in on discussions there. I’ve re-jigged the website to streamline this change.
Check out the event pages here which will take you through to MEETUP.com
“Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life.”
Thanks to Sam for hosting this watch party! This was on my watchlist and I was so happy to watch it with the gang, finally!
Buckaroo Banzai, directed by W.D. Richter, features a star studded cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonathan Banks and much, much more! The story follows Buckaroo Banzai, “an adventurer, brain surgeon, rock musician” and his band of merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, as they dash to protect the planet from a bunch of evil aliens looking to take over the world!
Hmm what can I say about this film? Well… Dr Hikita and Buckaroo are trying to perfect a machine (called an oscillation overthruster) which will allow people to pass through solid matter. Buckaroo drives the machine in his car and ends up in the 8th dimension. He finds something under the car which seems to be an alien creature. Meanwhile, learning about their tech successes, Dr Lizardo (a scientist who had ALSO attempted to create the same machine, and was in an insane asylum) decided to break out. Apparently in creating the same machine he had found himself in the 8th dimension as well, was attacked by aliens, and his body was taken over by an evil alien. There’s a bit where a messenger called John with a Caribbean accent comes to Buckaroo and crew and lets them know that he is from one group of aliens called the Black Lectroids that has been at odds with another evil group of aliens called the Red Lectroids, and it seems like earth is about to get caught in the crossfire. Also a bit in there where Buckaroo gets electrified and can see the aliens in their true form, a bit where he finds a love interest in a bar, some slug torture, Banzai tries to kiss an unconscious woman and he gets immediately and painfully electric shocked (honestly served him right) and then at some point, the film finishes and the gang do a catwalk past a sign saying Buckaroo Banzai and it rolls to credits…
There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly one big question… What the hell did I just watch? This film has a big cult following and is a lot of fun, but it’s a very silly film. There’s a lot going on, and also nothing going on. I believe one critic called it “unintelligible” which I would have to agree with, because it was pretty hard to follow. It seems like the writer(s) threw everything they had at this film and that Peter Weller and friends were just having a fun old time in front of a camera; meanwhile John Lithgow goes through a whole gambit of European accents, never really landing on the one he is attempting to nail (Italian).
Parts of the film gave off the same vibe I felt when I watched ‘American Astronaut’, which was this grease-monkeys feel. Though I thought that AA was excellent, whereas this film went on a weird journey that was all over the place.
Also, how can a film have that many stars and yet feel so low budget?! In one scene, the characters put ‘glasses’ which were clearly made of bubble wrap, supposedly to protect their eyes or help them see an alien. It’s unclear why. At one point all the scientists were wearing glasses to illustrate how smart they were, and then later abandoned that idea apparently. There was a moment at the end where – after the characters strutted past in slow-mo – the camera pans to the Buckaroo Banzai sign and I said “nothing says high budget film like gaffa”. You could clearly see a K on the brick wall, showing where the makers had attempted the sign prior lol. There was this level of pride they seemed to have in the film at that point, like they were collectively saying “nailed it” as they walked away. Did they nail it? Well that’s up for debate!
So all in all, great cast. Very fun, weird film. Probably the most diverse 80s film I’ve ever seen, including lots of ace Black and Asian peeps <3 though only one woman… who ended up only being the romantic element of the film. There was literally a scene where she is kissed by Buckaroo into consciousness, like some sort of sleeping beauty. It’s one of those films you need to watch with pals for maximum banter. I’m really glad I watched it with a group because it made it a lot of fun. Don’t watch it after taking drugs because you will trip out. You have been warned. I’m usually a big fan of weird, but even this was a bit too weird for me but maybe I need to watch it again. Jeff Goldblum in every scene was probably the highlight. Particularly dressed up as a cowboy in the end.
“What happens to us after we die? The only way to find out is to see for ourselves.”
Thanks to all the WATCHERS who joined me for the January watch party of this little gem. We had such a lot of fun and banter-galore!
So this film is both a remake and sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars Elliot Page, Diego Luna (of Y tu mamá también) and some other peeps!
First things first. If you’re coming into watching this thinking ‘wow Elliot Page? It’ll be a gem’, I gotta pre-warn you that this is not gonna be one of those films… I’m not one to usually suggest people don’t watch films. I think you’re an adult and can make up your own mind, but this one was pretty basic.
Medical student, Courtney (Page), is looking to crack the code behind what happens to your mind when you die and decides to rope in a couple fellow students. Page is hooked up to a neuroimaging machine, tells the two colleagues to stop Page’s heart and then resuscitate in 60 seconds. They begrudgingly do so after Page explains a waiver has been prepared and that they need not worry about repercussions. Page’s pals do the deed and Page survives. Then #hardpartayyyyy. Thus starting a cycle of subsequent students in the friend group trying the same, tensions around will they/won’t they save them from dying in time and then the group go into party mode. There’s a plot in there where all of the students who tried the experiment end up seeing what appears to be malevolent ghost but they don’t really address this until pretty much the end of the film but don’t worry they all learn something in the end…
Sooooo…. This film wasn’t what I was expecting. I love Page and he normally has a good track record for starring in at the minimum ‘average’ and at best ‘excellent’ films… I was really hoping that this ‘remake’ would extrapolate from the original – an already average film… maybe make it even better? But from all accounts that’s not the case. The scriptwriting was weak. I mean, I had a lot of fun watching it with all the fun WATCHERS and I don’t regret watching it, but had I watched it alone I think I would have thought it was a waste of time!
Erm so pretty big spoilers ahead: I really hoped, like a lot of the WATCHERS, that more of the sciency bits would have been expanded on. It felt like they threw in some well-known parts of the brain and said they flared up on the monitor, but didn’t really expand on that in any way when there was certainly opportunity. The budget for the film showed that they had money for a great deal of technology, the visuals and the soundscape (more on that later) were decent. Where it fell short was the reductive script… It seemed like jump scares for the sake of jump scares tied together with a few scientific terms and everything else was a footnote or an afterthought.
The experiences the characters had after death were so inconsistent that it didn’t seem believable. Some became haunted by people who had died (one at fault, the other not), others by living people who were apparently still on their mind and the take away is YOU GOTTA FORGIVE DUDEEEEE JUST FORGIVEEEEEEE. None of them had any redeemable characteristics. They all seemed like thoroughly terrible people from start to end. The main and supporting characters seemed two dimensional. There were two Black women/POC/BIPOC in the film which I was excited about and the script seemed to focus on at least one of them a little (Sophia), showing her to have a little dimension as a studious and anxious person… And THEN, following from her out-of-body experience, they have her fuck the shit out of one of her co-characters. Who doesn’t like a sexy scene? However, the choice they made for the only POC/BIPOC character to play that role, and the focal, uncomfortable and aggressive way it is done further builds on this hypersexualised stereotype in film that comes up time and time again that Black women are somewhat sexually deviant. This is further contrasted when we see a second sexually romantic relationship between two white people in the film but their sexual endeavour is portrayed in a gentle way. It creates this idea that Sophia is animalistic, fetishising something that is actually healthy. And then there is her mother figure, the only other POC character in the film who is desexualised and to me came off a bit like a mammy stereotype. They’re too pretty pervasive stereotypes in film so…
The only saving grace of the film is that the soundscape composed by Nathan Barr is pretty stellar.
So in conclusion, great soundtrack, very little storyline and pretty poor characters though fairly acted well despite what they were given! Jump scares actually made me jump even though I knew they were coming. That said, it felt like the film did neither the horror, nor the science fiction that well so… I personally wouldn’t recommend watching this. If you’re gonna watch any Flatliner, make it the original but listen to the 2017 film soundtrack so you get the best of both worlds! Also I still love you Elliot Page.