“Vivarium,” which was released onto VOD Friday, March 27, is a sci-fi/horror/fantasy flick that plays like an extended, modernized episode of The Twilight Zone with a dash of David Lynch oddity thrown in for good measure.
Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Bloomington, Ind. resident Jesse Eisenberg) are a young couple in the market for a home. She’s a school teacher. He’s a landscaper/handyman. They enlist the services of a strange real estate agent named Martin (Jonathan Aris) who takes them to a development known as Yonder. Every house in the subdivision is seemingly identical. The clouds hanging over the neighborhood resemble the ones painted on Andy’s bedroom walls in “Toy Story.” It’s also eerily quiet in Yonder. Martin gives the couple a tour of unit #9 and subsequently disappears into thin air. Gemma and Tom attempt to depart the development, but every turn they make returns them to #9 and their car eventually runs out of gas. They’re stuck like a coupla Chucks. Strange shit continues to occur from there.
A few random thoughts on “Vivarium:” All the references to unit #9 got me thinking of the all-time worst Beatles song/“sound collage” “Revolution 9” … this isn’t a good thing. The movie itself almost feels as though it could’ve and should’ve been a play – its scope is small and much of its pow comes from the performances. I was amused that the film’s cinematographer is a mononymous individual named MacGregor. This was the name of my family’s West Highland white terrier when I was growing up. We called him Mac for short.
Vivarium is the second feature from Irish director Lorcan Finnegan (“Without Name”). It was filmed in Ireland and financed with money from the Irish with assistance from the Danes and the Belgians. Poots and Eisenberg also executive produced the film. It’s a good enough-looking movie. Poots and Eisenberg are solid in it as they dependably are. I was slightly taken aback that she was credited before him as he’s the bigger name, but this is ultimately her movie. She’s in the film more than he is and does more of the emotional lifting.
Ultimately, Vivarium is what I like to call “Cinema of Agitation.” What these creatives do, they do well … it’s just not my particular brand of vodka. The film made me appreciate not being a parent – especially in these times of quarantine. There’s a whole helluva lot of yelling and screeching in the picture. It’s almost as if the filmmakers asked those behind “The Babadook” to hold their beer.