Animals

Cinepocalypse: Trench 11; Animals

I saw two films on the final two days of the festival, Trench 11 and Animals.

Trench 11

Trench 11

Canada. Directed by Leo Scherman. Starring Rossif Sutherland, Ted Atherton, Shaun Benson, Robert Stadlober, Karine Vanasse. 90 minutes.

As one of the bloodiest, most destructive, and most senseless mass conflicts of the last few centuries, World War I provides fertile dramatic fodder for horror narratives, and Cronenberg protégé Leo Scherman exploits it to maximum effect in his latest effort Trench 11. Rossif Sutherland (son of Donald) heads an excellent cast as Berton, a Canadian tunneler assigned to an Allied Powers taskforce, led by Brits and supported by Americans. Their assignment: investigate an apparently deserted warren deep beneath the German trenches, rumored to house the laboratories of a notorious engineer of chemical and biological weapons.

Scherman milks the dimly-lit, underground setting for all it’s worth, and once our team of “heroes” reaches the tunnels, the tension never lets up. He pulls no punches when it comes to grue (an effective mix of practical effects and CGI), but wisely uses the infected test subjects as an environmental hazard, not as the primary threat. The antagonists (only the deranged Reiner, a German weapons expert, qualifies as a villain) remain identifiably human, helping the horror work on multiple levels.

Bottom line: highly recommended for those who like their horror unremittingly grim.

Animals (Tiere)

Germany. Directed by Greg Zglinski. Starring Birgit Minichmayr, Philipp Hochmair, Mona Petri, Mehdi Nebbou, Michael Ostrowski. 95 minutes.

A relationship on the rocks turns into a surreal nightmare in Animals. Anna, writer of children’s books, heads to Switzerland with her husband Nick in a last-ditch attempt to save her marriage, but an automobile accident proves to be the first of a series of unsettling and increasingly bizarre occurrences. Meanwhile, Mischa, the young woman hired to look after Anna and Nick’s apartment finds herself stalked by a man who thinks she’s his ex-girlfriend.

Writers Greg Zglinski (who also directed) and Jörg Kalt pile absurdity on top of absurdity: events occur out of order, Anna loses time and appears in two places at once; the talking cat and the giant fork sticking out of the sea are two of the less inexplicable anomalies. The film exhibits a distinct Lynchian influence, although the climax at least provides something that could pass for an explanation.

Unfortunately, this style of film just isn’t my cup of tea: I found it too disjointed. (I think understanding the film uses what I call “wedding ring logic,” after the visual device the viewer should use to tell the Jake Gyllenhaals apart in Enemy. In other words, it requires me to notice things I don’t normally pay attention to.) It didn’t help that I found funny several elements the filmmakers seem to have intended as creepy. (The talking cat is at the top of that list.) On the other hand, fans of Mulholland Dr. and other Lynchian puzzle movies should find this one worth the watch.

Wrap-Up

Well, that’s it for the first Cinepocalypse. Unfortunately I was only able to catch about half of the new features offered; and scheduling conflicts forced me to skip several films I would have liked to see, such as Poor AgnesThe Lodgers, and especially Psychopaths (having to miss Mickey Keating joining forces with Larry Fessenden, Helen Rogers, Jeremy Gardner, and Matt Mercer hurts). And It Came from the Desert sucked hard as a secret screening choice. But other than Desert, I’m pretty happy with my spread of screenings.

Top Five (Non-Repertory) Movies of the Festival, as Far as I’m Concerned:

  1. Mohawk
  2. The Crescent
  3. Trench 11
  4. Applecart
  5. Housewife

Best Director: Seth A. Smith, The Crescent

Best Writer(s): Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix, Mohawk

Best Actress: Kaniehtto Horn, Mohawk

Best Supporting Actress: Barbara Crampton, Applecart

Best Actor: Rossif Sutherland, Trench 11

Best Supporting Actor: Ezra Buzzington, Mohawk

Best Score: Seth A. Smith, The Crescent

Chicago International Film Festival 2017: In the Fade / Mutafukaz / The Endless

My second “clump” of screenings included one World Cinema entry, In the Fade, and two After Dark offerings, Mutafukaz and The Endless.

Apropos of nothing, I can’t express how good it made me feel to walk up to the Advance Tickets counter at the theater and ask the festival volunteer to sell me a ticket to see Mutafukaz. Mutafukaz!

In the Fade

In the Fade (Aus dem Nichts)

Germany/France. Directed by Fatih Akin. 106 minutes.

Here in “Trump’s America,” we’re gradually coming to terms with the realization that the racist, neo-fascist element in our society has spread a lot wider than we wanted to believe. But white supremacist movements are certainly not confined to North America; German writer/director Fatih Akin’s latest effort, In the Fade (German title Aus dem Nichts, or “Out of Nowhere”), takes an unflinching look at the personal cost of racially-motivated domestic terrorism.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the film follows Katja, a German woman whose Turkish husband Nuri and five-year-old son Rocco die in a nail-bomb attack executed by a neo-Nazi couple, as she navigates the waters of grief while seeking justice from the German legal system. Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) won the Best Actress award at Cannes this year for her performance. It’s not hard to see why. While the film delivers many fine performances (especially Denis Moschitto as Katja’s lawyer and Ulrich Tukur as the repentant father of one of the killers), Akin’s screenplay and direction focus squarely on Kruger. She takes the audience through the stages of grief and brings new meaning to phrases like “steely determination.”

In the Fade is a grim and tragic film from start to finish, and in its final moments (some light statistics on racist terrorism in mid-2000s Germany), acknowledges that the only way to get true justice for the Nuris and Roccos of the world is to prevent such acts of terrorism from occurring to begin with. Over here in America, we’re going to have to wrestle with that as well.

Mutafukas

Mutafukaz

France/Japan. Directed by Shoujirou Nishimi and Guillaume Renard. 90 minutes.

Based on the comics by Guillaume “Run” Renard—who also co-directed and wrote the screenplay—Mutafukaz mashes up anime, West Coast gangsta culture (as seen through a white Parisian’s eyes), Lovecraftian horror, the bande dessinée tradition, and I don’t know what else. Angelino (usually just “Lino”) and the flame-headed Vinz live in squalor in “Dark Meat City” (or maybe “Dead Meat City,” the film’s not entirely clear on that point), a thinly-veiled caricature of mid-’90s L.A. The two—along with their annoying associate Willy, a cowardly talking bat whom no one seems to like much—find themselves at the center of a bizarre alien invasion plot. Which, somehow, also involves a team of luchadores.

It’s overstuffed with ideas but it’s entertaining enough—usually. The action sequences and meta moments aren’t quite as impressive as Renard seems to believe they are. This English-language dub (which may have replaced a subtitled version at the last minute) suffers from bland dialog and awful voice performances. Most of the cast seems to have learned their accents from old Cheech and Chong skits; the main second-string villain sounds like a bad impersonation of a bad impersonation of Sylvester Stallone; even the nominally white characters say “cock-a-roaches.” And the film’s only significant female character—a parody of the stereotypical anime schoolgirl, complete with gratuitous upskirt shots—could have been removed from the plot entirely without much effect, never a good sign.

However, I doubt the target audience will see these as flaws. Mutafukaz could be the next classic animated midnight movie, its posters replacing Akira and Ghost in the Shell in dorm rooms across America.

The Endless

The Endless

United States. Directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. 112 minutes.

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, the team behind Resolution and Spring, are back with another excursion into cosmic horror and its effects on those who come into contact with the infinite. The Endless stars Moorhead and Benson themselves as a pair of brothers named (wait for it…) Aaron and Justin, who return to the “UFO death cult” they grew up in and escaped a decade earlier. They find that the truth about the cult is much, much weirder than they’d thought.

I have been critical of Moorhead and Benson in the past—Resolution maddened me and Spring, while much better, suffered from some typical indie-cinema issues—but The Endless delivers the goods. The pair understand that the power of cosmic horror comes not from the monster, but from how the monster distorts the world around it. This can be visual—a “freak atmospheric effect” is blamed for doubling the appearance of the moon in the sky—but it’s often psychological as well: think of the rising paranoia in Carpenter’s version of The Thing. Similarly, the brothers’ return to the cult forces them to confront some unpleasant truths about themselves and each other.

The pair use special effects sparingly and subtly, focusing chiefly on character and atmosphere. I was a bit dubious when I learned they play the lead roles, but they do well. The most memorable performance, however, comes from James Jordan as the perpetually angry Shitty Carl, who has perhaps the clearest grasp on what’s going on, and has suffered for it.

While it’s earned a good deal of festival-circuit buzz, it’s a bit early to tell whether The Endless will end up one of the “can’t-miss” horror films of 2017-18. It does share a reliance on atmosphere with It Comes at Night and (going back a couple years) The Witch, so hopefully it will reach those films’ audiences as well. At any rate, highly recommended.

Chicago International Film Festival: Part 1

Chicago International Film Festival 2017: Four Hands / Maus / Sicilian Ghost Story

I’m back from the depths to cover some movies from this year’s Chicago International Film Festival. As with last year, I’m attending screenings in weekend-oriented clumps. This first clump consists of two films from the After Dark program, Four Hands and Maus, along with Sicilian Ghost Story from the International Feature Competition program.

Four Hands

Germany. Directed by Oliver Keinle. 87 minutes.

Oliver Keinle’s Four Hands takes a look at grief and mental illness through the lens of a revenge thriller. Frida-Lovisa Hamann puts in a bravura performance as Sophie, a concert pianist whose protective sister Jessica (Friederike Becht) dies in a random accident days after they receive word that their parents’ murderers are to be released from prison. Shortly afterward, Sophie experiences the first in a series of blackouts during which she seems to be preparing to take vengeance. Of course, doesn’t take Captain Obvious to figure out things aren’t quite that simple.

Unfortunately, the plot veers into standard thriller territory in the third act. Even then, Keinle’s inventive photography and intense performances from Hamann and Becht keep the audience focused, while Christoph Letkowski elevates his role—an almost-extraneous love interest for Sophie—to something essential. And I particularly appreciated the final scene, which somewhat subverts the revenge-movie cliché of violence bringing closure.

It’s not a remarkable film by a long chalk, but its entertainment value outstrips the average film of its genre. Worth a look.

Maus

Maus

Spain. Directed by Yayo Herrero. 90 minutes.

It was William Faulkner who said that the past isn’t dead and it isn’t even past, and that theme forms the center of Yayo Herrero’s feature début Maus. Alma Terzic stars as Selma (nicknamed “mouse” by her German boyfriend Alex), a Bosnian Muslim who returns to her former homeland for a funeral, the first time she’s been back since the wars of the early-to-mid-’90s. When a broken axle strands Selma and Alex in a vast forest, a pair of Serbian men come to their aid—but Selma doesn’t trust them, and for good reason.

The Bosnian war looms large in the backstory but the concerns of Maus—ethnic violence, violence against women, and misogyny in general—seem particularly topical to me, living as I do in Trump’s America watching the film in the wake of a series of sexual harassment revelations that rocked Hollywood. Even non-violent scenes—particularly ones in which Selma tries to convince Alex not to accept help from the uncouth strangers, only for Alex to dismiss her concerns out-of-hand—loom larger in my memory than they might have a couple of years ago. And note how Terzic, a blonde with the beauty of a western European supermodel, hardly fits the Western stereotype of a Muslim woman.

Herrero shoots almost every scene in close-up, giving the geography an almost nauseous, disorienting feel, and makes great use of the contrast between light, dark, and shadow. Terzic and August Wittgenstein (as Alex) radiate intensity. The Serbian pair, on the other hand, are so underdeveloped as characters that it’s hard to accept apparent attempts at ambiguity. I don’t know what to make of the ending—and judging from other reviews I’ve read, no one else seems to either. And I’m not even sure monster needs to be in the picture, which is why I haven’t bothered to mention it.

Still, when it works—and it works more often than it doesn’t—Maus delivers a powerful blow to the gut. It’s a film you can’t readily forget.

Sicilian Ghost Story

Sicilian Ghost Story

Italy/France/Switzerland. Directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. 122 minutes.

Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) is the 13-year-old son of a Mafia informant, and when he goes missing, and only Luna (Julia Jedlikowska), the rebellious classmate who crushes on him, cares much. Writer-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza take this premise—inspired by the 1993 disappearance of Giuseppe Di Matteo—and fashion it into a modern grunge-era fairy tale. The filmmakers wear the influence of Guillermo del Toro on their collective sleeve: the theme of violence directed against children brings to mind Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. All that’s missing are the monsters…the CGI kind, at least.

The filmmakers give the proceedings a pleasing Gothic atmosphere, making the most of the rural locations: the bucolic village, the eerie forest, the ancient ruins ominously looking over the vast sea. Luna lives in a large house whose facade implies modern construction, but the cellar seems hewed from ancient rocks and sweats moisture like a cave. Luna’s coming-of-age story takes place against the juxtaposition of the ancient and the contemporary.

I understand that Grassadonia and Piazza looked for children without acting experience to play Luna, Giuseppe, and their fellow students; such decisions don’t always work, but Jedlikowska, Fernandez, and Corinne Musallari (as Luna’s bestie Loredana) deliver excellent performances. Fernandez nails the tricky art of being cocky without coming off as an ass; Jedlikowska’s teenage stubbornness keeps the audience engaged while driving the story.

I have a lot more I could say about Sicilian Ghost Story that I can’t really fit in a capsule review, so I’ll just cut this off with an enthusiastic “highly recommended” and the sincere hope that audiences embrace it when it gets a proper American release.

A scene from VICTORIA.

Victoria

Germany. Directed by Sebastian Schipper, 2015. Starring Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff. 138 minutes. 4/10

I find myself asking the question: when is a movie gimmick not a gimmick? It’s a question I find myself contemplating when I think about Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria. You’ve probably heard of this one–it’s the movie shot entirely in a single take, almost two hours and twenty minutes long.

The film follows Laia Costa as the title character, a young Spanish woman recently transplanted to Berlin, where she doesn’t have any friends. She meets some German guys at a nightclub and really hits it off with them, particularly the smitten Lonne (Frederick Lau), and hangs out with them for a while. It soon turns out that Boxer (Franz Rogowski) is an ex-convict and owes a favor to someone who protected him in prison, which is how he ends up enlisting his friends, and by extension Victoria, in a scheme to rob a bank.

The answer to my question about film gimmicks is, of course, is that it’s not a gimmick when it’s the entire point of the film. Just like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood would be much less impressive if he recast roles and used aging makeup instead of stretching the shoot across a decade-plus, a conventionally-made version of Victoria would be so banal it wouldn’t be much worth watching. It’d just be another movie about a bunch of overconfident, impulsive twenty-somethings who do something stupid and find themselves in way over their heads.

So doing a movie with a story like this as one long take seems like a fantastic idea, and indeed Victoria has received a lot of praise for doing what it does. If it works for you, great. It doesn’t work for me, because I found so much of it achingly dull, particularly the first hour or so of the film, in which Victoria and the boys get to know each other. I’m all for long, slow-moving films when things actually seem to happen or mean something or I can at least trust that the filmmakers aren’t wasting my time.

But in the lead-up to the heist, which doesn’t even earn a mention until forty-five to sixty minutes into the movie, the movie lost me. I assume Schipper intended this as character development, but there really isn’t all that much character to develop: Victoria and Boxer are the only characters who seem to have any, well, character, and even then there isn’t much to work with. For all the dialog (apparently improvised), nobody really seems to have anything to say.

When everything starts going south, I don’t really care because I haven’t built up an emotional connection to the characters except Victoria. Costa holds a lot of the film together with her wide-eyed charm, but it only goes so far and there’s so much to hold together. I’ve heard a lot of people call this movie a thriller, and I can’t imagine a less appropriate designation. Thrillers have twists and turns and…well…thrillsVictoria just shuffles around Berlin even when it feels like it’s running.

As an experiment it intrigues, but to my mind, it ultimately falls flat. Enough people have liked it that I hesitate to refuse to recommend it at all; it might very well be your thing. But you definitely need to know what you’re in for before you start watching.

My rating: 4 of 10.

 

VICTORIA poster.

A scene from PHOENIX.

Phoenix

Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold, 2014. Starring Nina Hoss, Roland Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf. 98 minutes. 8/10

One of our favorite themes here at the Gallery is identity: what makes us who we are, the difference between who others think we are and who we really are, stuff like that. And you don’t need to be a doppelgänger thriller like Coherence or a philosophical mindfuck like The Skin I Live In to present an intriguing take on the subject. Case in point: the German post-war drama Phoenix.

Before World War II, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss) was a cabaret singer in Berlin. Having survived Aushwitz and undergone reconstructive surgery to repair the damage caused by a bullet wound to the face, she returns to the city she once called home, determined to reunite with her husband Johann (Roland Zehrfeld). When she finds him working at a nightclub in the American district, he doesn’t recognize her…but he does think she somewhat resembles the wife he believes dead. He enlists her in a scheme: the post-war Nelly will pose as the pre-war Nelly, so that Johann can claim her estate. Nelly agrees, but her friend Lene (Nina Kuzendorf) advises caution, claiming to have seen evidence that it was Johann who sold Nelly out to the Nazis in the first place…

Crucially, director Petzold (who also co-wrote, adapting a French novel) deals very little with flashback, leaving the viewer to speculate on the differences between the Nellys of the past and present. In Johann’s eyes, “Esther” doesn’t walk, talk, or wear makeup like the woman he married, and he must train her to take the place of the woman she doesn’t realize she actually is. But then again, the Nelly who entered Aushwitz isn’t the same one who left it. In a key scene, Nelly tells Lene she isn’t Jewish. I assume the camps eradicated that part of her identity.

Moreover, why doesn’t “Esther” tell Johann the truth? She defies Lene’s advice, insisting her husband still loves her, protesting his innocence of her friend’s accusations. But at the macro level, the Holocaust represented a vast betrayal by an entire nation against its own people. Perhaps that turned the trust that used to go unchallenged between a husband and wife becomes harder to regain as a result. Nelly tries to recapture a time before the war, for which her friend criticizes her. By contrast, Lene doesn’t even want to live in Germany anymore, constantly drawing plans for the two to emigrate to Palestine and the nascent Israeli state. (It may just be me, but I felt Petzold consistently implied deeper feelings on Lene’s part for Nelly.)

Petzold couches the story in the visual grammar of psychological thrillers and films noir, and comparisons to Hitchcock’s Vertigo abound, but Phoenix doesn’t really belong to either genre. That being said, he deploys that grammar effectively, particularly in the exterior shots of Berlin, a city divided and half-ruined, struggling to create a new version of itself, not quite assured of itself–much like the characters.

The ensemble digs for, and uncovers, the emotional truths behind their parts; particularly Hoss and Kunzendorf, but all the performances are excellent. The sorrowful, jazz-inflected score by Stefan Will (also incorporating elements of several songs of the era) sets the stage perfectly.

Phoenix is a stylish and insightful examination of the wounds left by tragedy, be it on an epic scale or a personal betrayal between two ordinary people. Psychological scars can’t be erased as easily as physical ones, as it turns out…not that we don’t already know that, but the film serves as a potent reminder. Highly recommended.

PHOENIX poster

A scene from GREEN ROOM.

Fantastic Fest 2015: Wrap-up

Note to those who have been following my Fantastic Fest 2015 coverage: there isn’t any new content in this post, this is just the “Best Of” and Ranking segments broken off from the day 8 post for ease of reading.

Continue reading “Fantastic Fest 2015: Wrap-up”

A scene from DER SAMURAI.

Der Samurai

Germany. Directed by Till Kleinert, 2014. Starring Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss. 79 minutes. In German, with English subtitles.

If your experience with genre cinema has been too safe, staid, straightforward, and just plain normal recently, I’d like to introduce you to Till Kleinert, the first-time writer/director of Der Samurai. Prepare to meet your new bizarro German Jesus.

The plot is weird enough. Michel Diercks plays Jakob, a nebbishy young policeman whom nobody seems to take seriously. But when der titular samurai, a cross-dressing, katana-wielding maniac who might or might not also be a werewolf (Pit Bukowski) comes to town with a mad gleam in his eye and an urge to do his “Connor MacLeod on speed” routine, Germany’s answer to Barney Fife might be the only one who can bring the madman’s path of destruction to a halt.

But Der Samurai’s true strangeness comes in its thematic elements. The apparently symbiotic relationship between Jakob–a guy so repressed he makes Edward Woodward’s character in The Wicker Man look like Lady goddamn Gaga–and the “free and wild” (to quote Lovecraft) “samurai” suggests many metaphors and interpretations over the course of the film, not all of them mutually exclusive. Why does Jakob occasionally behave out-of-character? Is the Samurai even real? What connects either character with the wolf who menaces at town at night, for whom Jakob leaves bags of raw meat in the hope of sating its bestial, primal hunger?

Your guess is as good as mine. Kleiner provides a possible hint in his description of his film as “a queer thriller,” but he clearly wants the audience to make up its own mind. Each viewer might have a radically different idea of what Der Samurai is really “about.” Or they might just take everything at face value, sit back and enjoy the weirdness and violence. I’m not always the best with symbols or metaphors unless I’ve lived with a film for a few years, so that’s the route I took. At any rate, Der Samurai has the potential to inspire one hell of a variation on Room 237.

Moving on to the more concrete aspects of the production, Kleinert’s visual aesthetic very much impressed me–capturing perfectly the spooky, middle-of-nowhere feel that small rural towns often have in the wee hours of the night. Conrad Oleak’s haunting score adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the front half of the film does seem a bit overloaded with forest chases that drag on a bit too long.

Bukowski can’t help but steal the film with his antics as the title character, a larger-than-life figure with a boner to match. Those who like their psychosis with a side order of raving and drooling will love the samurai to bits. Jakob is significantly less interesting, but that’s the entire point of his character. Diercks pushes his repression very close to the line where the character stops being relatable, but never crosses it.

Der Samurai is obtuse and obscure but never, ever dull. There’s an audience out there waiting for it, to grab the film with its grubby little fingers and claim it as its own. If this is the sort of thing you dig, put it towards the top of your watch-list.

DER SAMURAI

A scene from ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY

Errors of the Human Body

Germany. Directed by Eron Sheean, 2012. Starring Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tómas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall. 102 minutes.

Is it possible to have mad science without a mad scientist? Errors of the Human Body takes a swing at the idea.

Canadian utility player Michael Eklund stars as Dr. Geoff Burton as a genetic researcher obsessed with finding a cure for the rare disease that killed his infant son. But his unorthodox opinions and methods have alienated his American peers, causing him to look abroad for the resources to continue his work. Taking a position at a prestigious German institution, he’s soon embroiled in a turf war between his former protégé and ex-lover Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth) and the cocky and ambitious Novak (Tómas Lemarquis). The two were originally part of a team researching cellular regeneration, but personality clashes led Novak to break away and continue his research separately…and clandestinely. Both want to poach Burton for their projects; but Novak, possessing little in the way of boundaries or ethics, has taken his work further than anyone believed possible. And it’s all thanks to Dr. Geoff Burton…

The science is undoubtedly weird but Errors rarely feels like a horror movie. Hell, it rarely feels like a science fiction movie, and even when it does the tone is more in line with Michael Crichton than David Cronenberg. The development of subplots such as Rebekka and Novak’s office-politics battles or the romantic tension between Geoff and his former student aren’t just filler–they’re the point of the entire enterprise. Science is a means to an end for Errors, and the end is exploration of emotions and relationships. The science-oriented subplots occasionally prove a bit hard it follow, but the emotional payoff is devastating.

Unfortunately, the film’s clinical tone–boosted by location shooting at Dresden’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and an earnest attempt to make the science not feel like total bullshit–often works against its emotional core. There are times when one might think that director and co-writer Eron Sheean hasn’t so much made a movie as grown one in a Petri dish. Chilly thought it is, there’s still a stark beauty to Sheean’s direction, particularly in the exterior work. Aesthetically, the film’s high point is a rave(ish) party sequence involving Eklund in Baron Samedi-style makeup–those scenes seem to have provided the promotional team with most of their imagery.

Eklund is probably best known for playing eccentrics (having played the freak-of-the-week in the excellent Fringe episode “The Plateau”) and slimeballs (including a recent stint as ambitious drug lord Zane Morgan on Bates Motel) but delivers a restrained performance here that suits the film very well. Lemarquis plays Janek a bit flamboyantly, but that fits his character’s arrogant personality. The late Rik Mayall (yes, that Rik Mayall, he of The Young OnesBottom, and Drop Dead Fred) shines in a supporting role as the institute’s director. Herfurth tends to get a bit lost between the more domineering personalities, but keeps the tone down-to-earth and has great chemistry with Eklund.

Errors of the Human Body is a rarity among techno-thrillers in that its characters are as important as its technology and thrills, and it proves that a weird-science story doesn’t necessarily require diabolical cackling or Tesla coils. Sometimes, a simple road to hell paved with the best of intentions is all you need.

Errors of the Human Body poster