You know that sensation that washes over you when you discover a really good movie? Your heart races, you find yourself grinning like an idiot, you feel the need to tell everyone available about your love of said movie and hope it effects them the same way it did you. Such is the case for me with Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, a surreal headscratcher that is as unsettling as it is mesmerizing.
David Lynch’s Eraserhead meets Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters in this unsettling, fabulist and occasionally hilarious spiral into madness which follows a couple who are eager to move in together. This hunt for a perfect home leads handyman Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and school teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) to Yonder, a suburban neighborhood with streets and streets of identical houses, and a very mysterious real estate agent. The couple quickly decide that Yonder isn’t for them. But when they try to leave, the uncomfortable situation dissolves into a hellish nightmare as the housing development turns into a labyrinth-like maze where every road they take leads them back to where they started.
This once lively couple find themselves moldering away as they are forced into a pointless, bizarre routine influenced by the unseen force that is trapping them there.
If you are currently in the market for a run-of-the-mill horror flick that’s going to take your mind off of the global pandemic, then you are out of luck. Vivarium touches on forced isolation, your captor being a dick during said isolation, increasing paranoia, and building tension in normally loving relationships. For some, it will be too close to home. It really can be an uncomfortable watch. And I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that’s how I like my movies. Especially those that waste no time getting under your skin.
This story, both realistic and surreal, is mildly reminiscent of a dime store novel that Rod Serling ghost wrote because it was too ‘out there’ for The Twilight Zone. The prose often acts as intricate as a dance; at times it’s allusive, other times too slow to bare, occasionally breaks into a fantasy-esque dreaminess grace and finishes with a terrifyingly neat finale that stick with and satisfy viewers for a while. Especially with the terrifying amount they leave to the imagination regarding exactly what the hell is going on at Yonder (what is keeping Tom and Gemma trapped? How many couples have been put in this situation? What exactly is The Boy? My guess is lizard people).
While Eisenberg is a strong force as the silent Tom, Poots is the true ringleader of this s–t show. But my personal favorite of this bunch is Eanna Hardwicke who plays the older version of The Boy. Consistently stony faced and matter-of-fact, you’ll be left unsure whether to be terrified or to laugh at how easily he handles the most unappealing tasks without much thought. This is a man on a mission, and he is determined by the very same unseen force that’s trapping Gemma and Tom, he’s crafty and always successful in his weird little tasks, all without coming off as malicious.
So! In the mood for a disturbingly relatable example of a psychological thriller? Then add Vivarium to your quarantine watchlist! Now available on VOD.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Lorcan Finnegan
Writer(s): Garret Shanley
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke
Release Date: March 27th, 2020
Studio/Production Company: Fantastic Films
Run Time: 97 Minutes