Vivarium - Film Review

Vivarium - Film Review

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Posted 2020-05-01 by Kitty Goodallfollow


Suburbia is a hellish nightmare of identical houses and out of control mortgages. Parents are trapped with a demanding child, horrified as it screams for its supper, parrots their own dialogue back at them, and mimics their every gesture. The workday is long, gruelling and Sisyphean in its pointlessness. The couple grows increasingly distant from one another. They can't connect with society at all. They're trapped by their home and lifestyle. Like David Byrne sang in Once in a Lifetime they think, "This is not my beautiful house …well, how did I get here?".

Written by Garret Shanley (Without Name), this sci-fi horror's premise is given away in its clever title.

%%Vivarium - noun
An enclosure, container, or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under semi-natural conditions for observation or study or as pets; an aquarium or terrarium.
%%
"The idea of owning your own home has become like a faery tale," says Vivarium director Lorcan Finnegan, "Insidious advertising promises 'ideal living', a fantasy version of reality that we strive towards. It is the bait that leads many into a trap."



Even with the knowledge of what the title means, this movie will keep you guessing. Vivarium is one of those horror movies that eschews blood and guts in favour of building tension and messing with your mind. It will stick with you for days, perhaps weeks after viewing. It may even get you to reassess your entire life's goals.

A young couple, Gemma and Tom (Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg) visit a real estate office only to be manipulated into immediately viewing a new housing development. On arrival, they find row upon row of identical homes and a maze of roads that can't be navigated with ease. Abandoned there by the quirky real estate agent, they try to leave, only to find themselves lost. It's like they're in a kind of quantum trap. No matter how long or far they drive, they always find themselves back at the same house they had been shown. All attempts to escape are fruitless.



As the days go by, food arrives mysteriously in boxes at the front of the house. One day, a package arrives with a baby boy inside and an instruction saying they will be released if they raise the child. The child is one of those freaky horror movie kids. The role is played by three actors: Côme Thiry is the baby, the young boy is played by Senan Jennings, while the older version is played by Eanna Hardwicke. It becomes clear Gemma and Tom's 'son' is anything but normal. He grows at a rapid rate and lacks human qualities in his personality. "The social contract is a strange and invisible agreement that we flutter towards like moths to a flame," Lorcan says, "Natural areas are destroyed to make way for rows of identical houses, mazes for an atomised society to live out their days. We eat processed food wrapped in plastic. Media competes with parents to set strange new agendas in the minds of children."



If you loved They Live, this will be your cup of tea. It puts the ambitions all couples are brainwashed from birth to aspire to under the microscope. Marry, reproduce, buy a house in the suburbs, settle down. "The dream of owning a home can soon turn into a nightmare. Consumerism is consuming us. Vivarium was fed on these ideas." Lorcan reveals, "It amplifies and the ordinary through a sci-fi lens. It is a surreal and twisted tale that is darkly humorous, sad, frightening and weirdly satisfying. I hope audiences get a kick out of it and that it lingers in the mind."



Vivarium is well-paced with great editing and a beautiful sense of colour in its art direction, lighting and cinematography. The acting from all cast members is rock solid and the premise genuinely horrifying. It's not all suspense and thrills, there are some wonderful moments of dark comedy in there too. Best of all, you can remain in social isolation and see this new film in safety, BYO popcorn!

Vivarium can be seen now on Google Play, iTunes, Telstra, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment. It's also on Foxtel on Demand from May 6.

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85161 - 2023-06-11 07:05:03

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