Combustible Celluloid
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With: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris
Written by: Garret Shanley, based on a story by Lorcan Finnegan & Garret Shanley
Directed by: Lorcan Finnegan
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 97
Date: 03/27/2020

Vivarium (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

House Stressed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In Vivarium, available to stream at home during this COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" crisis, Jesse Eisenberg plays Tom. He's a professional gardener, a guy's guy, coupled up with schoolteacher Gemma (Imogen Poots). They are not married, but they are comfortable enough in their relationship that they have begun to look for a house.

A supremely strange real estate agent called Martin (Jonathan Aris) takes them to Yonder, a new housing development. Each house is exactly like another, painted in an unnatural, plasticky shade of green.

They politely look around a sterile, soulless house. Suddenly, Martin vanishes. They drive around trying to find the exit, but no exit can be found. They run out of gas right in front of their unit, and go back inside.

The next day, they try again to escape and fail. It's best to stop describing here, as Vivarium is true nightmare fuel, designed and directed, by Lorcan Finnegan, to sicken with its icky color scheme and its queasy atmosphere. But it's also impossible to stop watching.

Characters mention how food has no taste, nothing has any smell, and it all feels plastic and fake. Even the sky above is eerily manufactured.

Of course, the movie recalls the 1964 "Stopover in a Quiet Town" episode of The Twilight Zone, though most modern viewers may not know that one, and Vivarium definitely adds its own demented share of twists.

Perhaps this isn't the best movie to see while stuck inside, but it's certainly recommended to bolder viewers.

Lionsgate was unable to send me a physical DVD or Blu-ray due to the COVID-19 crisis, but they sent me a very nice-looking digital copy that includes a commentary track by director Finnegan and Brunella Cocchiglia, and a really interesting 20-minute behind-the-scenes short.

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