Saturday, June 27, 2020

Vivarium (2019) (and apology to Lorcan Finnegan)

I know I am really really late on reviewing Lorcan Finnegan's VIVARIUM. I saw the film almost a year ago when it played at Fantasia, but there is a reason I am just coming to the party.

The short version of the story is that I was allowed to see the film before Fantasia but I was told I could not review the film last July unless I made the review sound as if I was in Montreal. They were not screening the film for critics and any reviews were only to be from actual screenings. The distributor wanted to hold reviews for the release in 2020.  Since my Fantasia coverage was filled with references to being covering the fest remotely I couldn't in good conscious say I saw the film at the fest when everything else I published said I was home.  I had to fall back to the B position which was run the review when it hit theaters/VOD in 2020.

I wrote the review, banked it and then went on.

When the film was released, I somehow missed it was coming until reviews started appearing. No problem I'll put up the banked review- but it was not in the draft folder but somewhere else and I couldn't find it. Cut to the chase I still have no idea where the original review is.

Certain I would find it sooner than later I let it go. Time went by. Then needing a fix of a good horror film plunked down the cost of a VOD rental, rewatched the film and I did this review.

I know there is no reason you need any of that, but I feel horrible several times over especially since I had told Lorcan Finnegan how much I liked the film back in July. Having spoken with Lorcan on a couple of occasions and even interviewing, he is  a person I really like on a personal level.

With apologies to Mr Finnegan here then are some thoughts on his masterpiece VIVARIUM
The original teaser poster
After I saw VIVARIUM for the first time I told a number of people how much I liked it and I begged them to see it.

A year after I first saw it I know that reaction could be mixed. Some people I pushed to see it didn't like it.  I know that the film doesn't work for some people, or so they say. I suspect that in some cases this bleak black nightmare of a film just weirds them out. I have seen the film a couple of times now and it bothers me deeply on a primal level.

Simply put Lorcan Finnegan has made a supremely fucked up film.

Trust me you have no idea how off this goes.

The plot has a couple looking at a house in a new development. Its a weird place where everything looks exactly the same. Martin, the guy showing them the house is more than a bit strange, and despite sensing they should probably run, they go look at the house. Once they are in the house Martin disappears and they can't find their way out of the development. No matter what they do all roads lead back to #9. They are trapped...

...and then it goes off the deep end.

I won't say another word about what happens. I considered it because people have had time to see it so I am not too worried about spoilers- except that you don't want to know until you see the weird  shit starts hitting the fan.

While continuing to work with themes of isolation and suburbia that filled FOXES and WITHOUT NAME Finnegan ups the ante and creates a world that is completely under his control. Finnegan is working not so much with real places but places that are in "this development, name a place like ours but not somewhere else. I've spoken to some people who don't like the sense of unreality, but the truth is that is the point. This would never ever have been as chilling if this took place in a real place. Where his earlier films hinted or glimpsed another world VIVARIUM is in that other world.

I am in awe of this film in the way that I am of few horror films. Rarely has any horror film messed me up more with repeated viewings as this film has as the knowledge of what things mean appear earlier. I found myself shouting-NO DON'T because I know where the choices made are going to lead.

I also love that Finnegan doesn't supply any answers. Things are. With no real concrete answers he drains away hope and we just end up feeling bent and broken as the credits roll.

Why the hell did I rewatch this freaking nightmare more times than just the first? I have no idea.
Clearly I am a glutton for punishment. Actually it is more that Finnegan's film makes me feel...something. Watching VIVARIUM I felt  more  than almost any almost any other film out there. I was forced to engage and feel and try to come to terms with what that means.

Disturbing as it is,VIVARIUM is a masterpiece- one need only see it to know that.

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