Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Fantasia '19: Vivarium is a Carefully Constructed Coffin: A Film Review

Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

Writers: Lorcan Finnegan, Garret Shanley.

Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris and Senan Jennings.

Vivarium is a modern horror film, recently screened in Montreal, Quebec. Originally, the film played in Cannes, this past May. A Fantastic Films production, Vivarium puts two characters in a cloned neighbourhood; here, everything looks the same. The setting is the real horror as the setting never really changes. The suburban landscape is taken to hyperbole, leading to an eerie conformity.

The film begins with Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots). They are looking for a new house and end up in a terribly similar neighbourhood. There is no way out of this setting. Soon, they are forced to raise a child, who is delivered in a box. Both characters try to escape in their own way, but all of the exits lead six feet underground.

The setting brings the real horror. All of the houses and streets look the same. Even backyards are laid out in similar patterns. The neighbourhood is like a maze. And, the repetition wears on the characters and even the viewer. There is no way to look away or get out of this hellscape.

Vivarium covers a few topics. The rise of suburbia has led to a conformity in architecture and even in our daily lives. Everyone's life is laid out so carefully, along a singular path. To step off of this one road is difficult. That conformity is shown in the repetitive settings and the roles the characters are forced to play. Tom goes to work every morning, just digging a hole. Emma tries to raise a child, even though he is a sociopathic monster. It is interesting to see how our modern lives have trapped some of us in behaviours and minimized our outlets as shown in this film.

Vivarium will continue a film festival run. Filmmakers may even be in attendance as they were at Fantasia. And, Vivarium brings some great horror to the screen, with messages of suburbia-gone-wrong. Meanwhile, the message of conformity is a strong one, like quicksand pulling everyone downwards.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

*Fantastic Films is a production co' associated with the Fantasia Film Festival.

**the Latin translation of viva is death and the suffix rium is often used in reference to an enclosure e.g. aquarium, sanatorium. So, the film's title could be translated to death enclosure.

Vivarium at Fantasia with more details: Vivarium at Fantasia

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