Fantasia Faceoff: Errors of the Human Body vs. The Human Race
Oh the humanity! Two low budget but excellent sci-fi chillers* go scalpel-to-scythe in a Fantasia Faceoff that goes for the jugular.
Errors of the Human Body
Directed by Eron Sheean
Written by Eron Sheean, Shane Danielsen
Geoff Burton is a scientist whose research has taken a personal turn. Intent on investigating the genetic abnormality that precipitated the death of his infant son, he’s relocated to a research facility in Dresden, Germany. It’s here that he reunites with his former intern Rebekka and becomes involved in her search for a gene that regenerates lost tissue. But what kind of research, Geoff wonders, is going on behind closed doors? Academic politics and ethical quandaries collide as Geoff starts to get his hands dirty…
Cold, edgy and uncomfortable, this is a film with stylistic flair belying its budget. The cinematography leans heavily into the greys and greens as its characters negotiate the claustrophobic interiors of a real life research facility, only bleeding into colour during a cathartic fight scene in a club. The prevailing chilliness is echoed in Michael Eklund’s performance: Geoff is about as taciturn and remote as he is ethically challenged, liable to store a stolen lab mouse in a tin can when a cage doesn’t present itself. Karoline Herfurth, meanwhile, warms things up a little, giving a grounded and likeable performance as Rebekka. (Her axolotl costume, by the way, must be seen to be believed.)
Unfortunately the film doesn’t quite live up to its own ambitions: ostensibly a portrait of scientific endeavour through the lens of trauma, grief and guilt, the movie doesn’t let us get close enough to its characters for the emotional and scientific elements of the film to mesh into something memorable. That said, the club scene really is a showstopper, while Geoff’s incidental conversations with his eccentric colleagues – both comic and, let’s face it, realistic – hit exactly the right note. And so, while it’s not as thematically coherent as it could be, Errors is a visually accomplished film with an authentic feel, and will appeal to those who like their science over ice.
The Human Race
Written and Directed by Paul Hough
Screened in rough cut yesterday evening, The Human Race centers on a Battle Royale-type contest featuring eighty human beings plucked from a city block. Unaware of how they got there or who has summoned them, they’re ordered to race through a sprawling arena or else meet their demise. It’s clear early on that whoever is orchestrating this contest is serious as anything; anyone who steps off the track and onto the grass explodes in a fountain of blood.
Fast-paced, engaging, and featuring a diverse ensemble cast, this movie never goes quite where you think it’s heading. Among other things, the film plays fast and loose with our expectations about the portrayal of disabled people in movies. Two of the combatants are deaf, and the film’s lead (Eddie McGee) is an amputee; far from being exempt from the horrors that befall the others, these characters do some pretty ruthless things themselves. McGee in particular brings an arresting physicality to the role, pulling off some incredible fight scenes and stunts while putting forth a determined, sympathetic, and thoroughly flawed character.
The sci-fi element of the story, meanwhile, is elegantly played out; while stories of this kind usually begin in a post-apocalyptic future and yell “Go”, there’s something altogether more complicated and strange going on here. It all leads up to a reveal that could have been a complete mess in other hands; as it is, it astounds. Everything in this movie just works: propelled by the strength of its concept, strengthened by its many, many fine performances, and pulled together by means of some truly innovative direction and editing, The Human Race is a winner through and through.
***NOTE: The full-length trailer for The Human Race was just released, you can watch it here!
As much as I enjoyed both of these fresh and engaging science fictional tales, I’m going to give this one to The Human Race for its sympathetic performances, gigantic risks, and gorgeously surreal ending. Sunday was the only screening of The Human Race at Fantasia, but I have never seen a film play out so well in a theatre, and if The Human Race comes across half as brilliant on a living room television screen then a cult following can’t be far off. This is one DVD to watch for.
*The Sci-Fi Chiller
Pour two jiggers of vodka over ice and add pickle brine to fill. Garnish with dill and serve in a frosted glass.