Boston Sci-fi Festival & Thon Wrap up - Well closing in on the end of the line and it has really been an exceptional festival. Everything bleeds together in the end and it has taken me more time to get this last post done just because of the needed recovery time. Still I had to push it out because I am getting a break from this harsh winter and heading to warmer climates soon. The festival was fun I got to meet and spend time with some wonderful people and look forward to doing it again next year.
This post will cover what I remember from Saturday and the Marathon, although the Thon is an experience in itself so I won't say much about it. If you have not experienced it you really should start planning today to be there next year.
Armistice (2013) - A Royal Marine (Joseph Morgan) wakes imprisoned in a house he can't escape from and is forced to fight a hideous creature that appears each day even after being killed the day before. First thoughts after viewing this movie was 'Oh my goodness was that dragged out.' We see many cycles of the soldier dealing with the creature and then exploring the house looking for a way out. We he sleeps at night we see his dream of himself in a battle scene somewhere green, then he wakes and the routine of dressing and going into the dining room to find a meal waiting for him. It is the same meal everyday and in this is a clue. Then at the same time each day the creature appears and the solder taking varying amounts of damage kills it. Many of the cycles have the solder doing different things to try to escape but after a time each one fails. Then when he wakes the damage to the walls or windows or doors has been repaired and the day starts again the same as the one before. It is when he finds a way into the cellar behind a wall that there is a slight change in his routine. In that cellar he finds a journal. It is a journal of a soldier who was in the house before him. So at least we have the voice over dialog from that past man to break the monotony of the film. The current soldier eventually learns the secrets of the house and the story of the soldier who came before him. In doing so he eventually is treated to a 'Twilight Zone" type ending and after the credits roll we see yet another soldier awaking in the house to continue the pattern.
Now although dragged out we have to consider if part of the reason for this is so we the audience feel the frustration being demonstrated by the soldier. He is in a horrible pattern of monotony that is really never broken even with the small changes in his routine. If the film make Luke Massey did not push the limits of repetition in the film we would have less of an appreciation for the feeling of the character. Imagine what this guy is going through everything reset every day. The same food and drink, the same inescapable house, the same fight for survival every day without end. Now countering that is the question of do you as a filmmaker want to frustrate your audience? Where is that line and how much variation and introduction of new elements are necessary to hold the audience? This meditation on death and courage to face it may have crossed the line being a bit too repetitious with to few or too small changes for most audience members. There is an interesting turn towards the end that demonstrates that the film is actually about pushing through the fear of the unknown is a bit too late as most of the audience at that point may be a bit tuned out. It may be possible that with another editing pass this film may be tightened up enough to hold attention to the end. Unlike other movies with the repeating day set up this one has just the two characters so it is much harder to keep it intriguing. You can do a lot more when there are fifty characters and a world outside than you can with one guy, a monster and a house. Overall I hope I am getting what the film maker is trying to do but in its current state it was not a film a would want to see again.
The Search for Simon (2013) -This was one of my festival favorite features this year. A comedic science fiction film filled with sci-fi references for all the geeks out there. It also ends up being a touching tale of a man dealing with grief and loss and finally coming to terms with the reality of the past. Directed by and starring Martin Gooch it is the story of David a forty something man who has spent 37 years looking for his brother Simon, who as David relays was abducted by aliens when they were both children. At this point in his life her is still living at home with his alcoholic emotionally closed off mother Irene (Carol Cleveland). He had some luck several years before winning the lottery making it possible for him to devote all his time for the search for his brother. Cleveland who was a Monty Python regular is wonderful as the Mother who refuses to revisit the tragic path of losing a son and instead shuts herself off taking refuge in her daily bottle.
The movie takes its time building a world around David, he is in a dungeons and Dragons group, but they have lost their patience with him because he is always talking about Simon and aliens. His childhood friend Robert (Simon Birks) attempts to coach him through the interactions but in the end he just can't stop himself. They are very funny scenes of how the group has become hostile to him and try to hide the game from him. Also in David's world is the online contacts of UFO hunters primarily represented by AlienFromArturas (Mark W. Gray) who syphens off money from David with UFO sighting tips. David driven and needing internally to continue to seek aliens as a way to his brother wastes his fund going to Utah, the Netherlands or anywhere a tip leads. Each time there is no real aliens there but he returns home enthusiastic thinking he is getting closer. Through this strange lovable character we see and here all kinds of geeky references, his phone ringer is the sound of Doctor Who's tardis landing, Star Trek, Star Wars, Douglas Adams, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Back to the future references makes the viewing of this fine feature a fun experience.
The plot is driven in a couple ways, the first is David and his quest but the second is that he is noticed by Eloise Eldritch (Noeleen Comiskey) a psychologist and author looking for the subject of her next book. In her pursuit of a story she convinces David to come in and talk to her about his obsession. This has a wonderfully twisted turn to it. Here you have this selfish writer just looking for her next score really attempting to use this confused and somewhat sad man as her topic. She is completely looking to exploit him and in this atmosphere she ends up getting the real story about David and his brother. In the end she ends up helping him even though that was far from her original intent.
This no spoiler review is here because this is a film that you should try to see. Some of the characters may be a bit over the top but all and all the character of David carries this story and it is one worth seeing. When all is said and done there is a curtain pulled back and what was a quirky comedy becomes a touching story about needing to forget the past and then finding the stregth to face it and move onto a brighter future.