In the year 2024, the world’s superpowers are on the edge of nuclear warfare as Earth’s resources are dwindling at a rapid pace. A halt in knife edge conflict and the construction of temporary peace, known as the RAND Treaty, allowed nations to build underground, sustainable bunkers for a restarter population. Plethura 04, one of these bunkers, is being monitored, maintained, and prepped by Roy, an labeled “undertaker” scientist, whose setting the stage for a group of survivors known as Priority One, but when the sudden fallout alarm blares, Plethura is locked down early, trapping Roy alone in a cavernous and cold bunker alone with the exception of an A.I. program that Roy named Arthur. As time passes, Roy sanity comes into question; so much so, that Roy believes that Plethura might just be a drill simulation. Also, is there really something in the bunker with him? Is Arthur trying to confuse him? Questions, isolation, and terror seep into Roy’s mind, perhaps, or perhaps not, manifesting a lurking presence.
“Its Alive,” also known as “Twenty Twenty-Four” is the intense psychological thriller from the United Kingdom. Written and directed by first timer Richard Mundy, “It Lives” is helmed in the same vein as “Buried” with a solo performer in an isolation crisis. Produced by Ripsaw Pictures and Entity Film Company, the feature has some production power behind it that makes the indie film seem to have a fluffier value than its actual worth and garnishes a cherished and chilling atmospheric cinematography by Nick Barker. A real sense of a cold cleanroom can be just as frightening as a filthy slaughterhouse and the Mundy-Barker team hone in on that very concept, performing a bariatric surgery on the heaviness and the plentiful of the up top, outside world and reducing it to a few corridors, a couple of living chambers, and beast-like belly of a generator room. The filmmakers fabricate isolation and the perception of isolation well with a tremendous set up of the scenario: the preparation and the sudden, unexpected calamity of a nuclear fallout.
Actor Andrew Kinsler has the toughest job in the world, acting without feeding off the energy and the lines of other fellow actors. Kinsler goes at the role alone as Roy, a scientist prepping Plethura 04 for the arrival of Priority One survivors and knowing that he will die when he trades spaces with the group as he has to go topside. That’s notion, of having to sacrifice yourself for strangers, is a deep concept. Its easier to sacrifice oneself for the sake of those you love and care for, but complete strangers is pure mental mayhem, especially when all the work of getting the bunker ready was done by Roy. Kinsler keeps up the part of coping with his mortality, accepting it, and then being crushed by it when the world ends at the blink of an eye. Questioning everything as he immerses deeper into isolation, Kinsler relies more on the artificial intelligence to be a companion, despite seemingly being annoyed by the very lack its thirst for human complexities.
Many popcorn viewers don’t care for an open book ending films where the personal interpretation opens up a vast range of theories. “It Lives” is one of those films. Most certainly a disturbing psychological thriller, the story perpetually has Roy second guessing every anomaly that spooks him, even to the extend of thinking a computer program has infiltrated his subconscious with trickery and confusion tactics. Then, the ending smacks you right in the face and then smacks you again with a three finale questions: Was it a dream? Was it madness? Or was it all real? Christopher Nolan similarly put the fate of “Inception’s” Cobb into the hands of audiences when he spins a toy top to see if he was still in inception or if he was in reality. If continuously in motion, that would signify Cobb’s in a fantasy world, but Cobb’s spin is cut short with a cut to black, begging the answer of whether his happy ending was true or a inceptive pipe dream. Roy’s scenario is a lot darker and, if not, deeper that’s challenged by an internal struggle of self-preservation. Has Roy become a fixture of the cleanroom aspect? Has he become a cold figment of accepting his fate and has suppressed his emotion about it to the boiling point that his subconscious is fighting for his own survival? “It Lives” is an exceptionally juicy psychological film worth exploring.
Second Sight presents “It Lives” onto DVD home video this July 30th! Since the screener was a DVD-R, a full assessment of the audio and video aspects will not be covered. There were also no bonus material on the disc. What I can say is that Harry Kirby’s score is the utmost jarring; reminds me of Mark Korven’s unsettling and unique unmelodious score in “The Witch.” As part sci-fi and part horror, the surface level narrative is sheer terror and fear. Below surface, the wicked and frightful stir an embattling vortex of arguments in the grossest of grotesque forms, aka a complete mind destabilization. “It Lives” has indie roots that spread wide and fierce, shredding through temporal lobes like soft butter and delivering one hell of a terrifying psychological horror.
Victor, a pioneering and experimental genetic scientist, has done the impossible, cloned a living human baby and named the girl Elizabeth. Obsessed with learning from his creation, Victor works tirelessly, neglecting his wife and two children. He also neglects a dark secret from his past that threatens everything he’s worked for and achieved. Religious group and lawful prosecutors blind him from the underlining and he continues with his research, diving deeper into the mysteries of Elizabeth. When Victor’s dark past catches up with him and reveals itself, he becomes forced into protecting his family and his creation Elizabeth from harm.
The Billy Senese sophomore written and directed film about the inevitable consequences of cloning shares a familiar similarity to being an adult version of Larry Cohen’s monster baby macabre “Its Alive.” Instead of hideous and murderous Davies baby, “A Frankenstein Story” caters more to realism with a deformed, genetically developed child growing up in pain and in secret. Senese tunes into a style that’s comparable to the likes of “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh, soaked in a contrast of composure and slightly solemn.
The “A Frankenstein Story” title is a UK title. In the USA, the film goes more recognizably under “Closer to God,” which is a line withdrawn from the film, and while I do think “Closer to God” is a more suitable title, the gothic-like title has holds water in an off color way. Aside from a man creating a human out of biological genetics instead of using body parts and electricity, the Senese film homages the old Mary Shelley tale in some other respects. Lead actor Jeremy Childs plays Victor and we all know Victor is a the first name to the titular character Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s story. Also, Senese, wether intentionally or not, has envisioned and dressed Childs as the creator and the monster. Victor is toweringly tall, freakishly broad shoulders, and has a square like face, making him appear like The Creature.
Senese’s narrative has promise at the very beginning and the very end with everything else in between being quite stagnant in developing and displaying Victor’s awfully well hidden secret. There also isn’t any exposed motivation between Victor, and some of the other characters, in behind the laboratory conceiving of Elizabeth. The only conclusion that’s explicit is that Victor becomes obsessed with being God, a very fine line between being human and the Almighty, putting the science more in the background and putting his fatherly strides first in defeating nature.
The High Fliers Films DVD hit retail shelves in the UK this past Tuesday, January 25th. The disc was a DVD-R review screener and contained just the film so I can’t speak upon or review the bonus material or the film’s quality. However, we’re not totally sold on Billy Senese take on the mad scientist genre, even with a semi-favorable review. The last 15 minutes is intense, tragic, and compelling that the second act needed so desperately to keep interest and to keep the story developing along.