EIFF 2015 – Infini
Shane Abbess’ Infini attempts to the answer the question of what would happen if the concepts behind Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing were combined.
The basic story here is that humanity in the future are in a pretty sorry state with rampant poverty meaning that people have to take on increasingly dangerous jobs in order to earn enough to feed their families. It’s a pretty obvious economic message dressed up in a sci fi concept but works well enough as a setup. It is by no means original but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Our protagonist here is Whit Carmichael (Daniel MacPherson) who promises his wife that he’ll be home for dinner despite having to go to work. We all know that this isn’t going to work out well for poor Whit if he’s saying things like that early on in the film.
As predicted it all goes horribly wrong when Whit finds himself the only survivor of a doomed mission to a remote facility who needs to be rescued by a secondary team. The inspiration for this film is apparent from very early on when we see the dark and unforgiving remote setting full of claustrophobic corridors and a generally foreboding atmosphere. Visually it very much takes from Alien and The Thing pretty much in equal measure but I found the setting to create enough of an atmosphere to boost the tension at key points in the narrative.
In terms of an antagonist this film borrows more from the playbook written by John Carpenter than Ridley Scott. Instead of a measurable alien antagonist hunting them down one by one it’s more of an alien infection that turns the humans into the threats. I liked this approach as it left me constantly on edge wondering who would turn next and when. Most of the characters are pretty unhinged to begin with so it could literally be anyone. The world building establishes the people involved in these dangerous missions as being far from the best candidates considering most of them are desperate people just looking to make a living.
I found MacPherson to be a capable lead as it was never clear whether he might be the one who turns next. I got the feeling that he would be the last but there are many clues that suggest this may not be the case. The film gives innumerable reasons to mistrust everyone and everything that’s going on and it keeps things interesting. It isn’t the best example of tension ever put on film but altogether not the worst.
A big problem is that none of the characters are all that well developed. Whit is the protagonist but beyond him having a family and designing computer games I don’t know that much about him. Ditto for the other characters who have little personality beyond their occupations. As with The Thing this film could have benefited from clearly establishing the characters so that the audience could be invested in them when they start turning on each other.
Sadly the foreboding atmosphere and constant sense of tension are completely let down by a really slow middle part that just drags on endlessly. There’s a lot of repetition in this section and a really clumsy level of exposition where people simply sit or stand around and yell paranoid facts at each other. There was so much more that could have been done here with visual flair rather than pointless chatter that doesn’t really further the story.
Unfortunately the slow middle is something that the film never recovers from and the ending just comes across as confusing with no clear idea of what’s going on. I can sort of see what the implication is but the idea is never developed enough to know for sure. Maybe there’s hope of a sequel that will pick up from that point.
There’s also a tendency to start down a narrative path and simply abandon it without any resolution. I’m all for leaving things a mystery and this film had the makings of a good one but certain aspects of it are dropped at a point that makes it feel as if they were clumsily cut from an overlong screenplay or something of that ilk. I do applaud Shane Abess for trying to put in some meatier concepts alluding to identity and what it means to be human but it’s lost in a muddled and unfocussed screenplay that never quite decides what the film wants to be.
It’s a pretty low budget affair this one but it doesn’t betray those limitations. There’s the convenient plot point of their advanced expensive visual effects creating equipment not working in the hostile environment they enter to keep things on the cheap but a believable futuristic world is nicely created on the cheap here. The claustrophobic setting starts to feel very familiar as the same corridors are traversed time and again but small things like that can easily be forgiven.
If you can get around the tortuously slow middle part and put the clumsy exposition out of your mind then this is something that is worth looking at. It does well at creating a foreboding and claustrophobic atmosphere with some interesting sci fi concepts thrown in for good measure.
Very much a mixed bag with an impressive sense of world building plagued by a screenplay that tries to throw too much into what should have been a relatively simple narrative.
The setting harkens back to some of the best sci fi horror films of yesteryear with cold, dark, cramped metallic corridors that could be concealing any number of horror. The film does an effective job of building tension and creating a foreboding atmosphere to begin with.
Sadly the middle section of the film completely derails this with plot points picked up and dropped with no resolution and endless scenes of repeated exposition before finishing in a confusing manner that could have used a lot more explanation. Sadly the film never recovers from the slow mid point and ends with something of a whimper.
It’s worth checking out if you can deal with a slow middle section. It’s certainly worth seeing how this original futuristic world is built on the cheap and how tension is established early on. There was something much better hiding under here and with a little tweaking it might have been a sci fi great.