Spoilers think it’s not really a buyer’s market right now.
I have a confession to make. I wanted to watch this film back in the International Fantasia Film Festival 2019. I missed it for another film, but I managed to catch it later. Okey, that’s two confessions. When I finally managed to catch it, I didn’t like it. Guess that’s three. And then, I opted not to review it. That’s four confessions. Okey, I’ll come back in. I also forgot the fanatical devotion to the Pope. Let me start over.
Vivarium (2019) was directed by Lorcan Finnegan and written by Garret Shanley. Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are a couple looking for a house. They decide to visit a new development that seems just what they’re looking for, despite some odd elements. That visit ends up being the start of a never-ending cycle in which they’re trying to escape a house that seems have captured them for eternity.
So, to explain a little, I did hear good things about this suburban horror film back in 2019. I missed its debut on Fantasia that year, but ended up watching it later. I wanted to like it, hoping the story will give me something more than just eerie visuals, and at least some clever twist. I don’t abhor looping storylines, if there’s some meat behind the mystery. I also don’t necessarily need an explanation. But I do need something of a treat, a satisfying reveal, for my investment. The movie seems to be going somewhere, as we have Gemma ending up with a creepy kid and Tom becoming obsessed with digging up the yard.
There’s nothing behind any of the actions taken by the main characters. At least a sliver of a moral dilemma would have given something to latch onto, but we don’t get that. This feels like a short story from The Twilight Zone elongated into a film but without coming up with a punchline. It does reset at the end (not a huge twist) but there’s no horrifying secret, no social commentary on human materialism or greed. I guess one could argue that it’s going over my head, but then it would still miss one crucial component: there is no satisfying reason to watch this film.
If anything, I will give some credit to Imogen Poots’ character at least having some development while Jesse Eisenberg seems to just end up going full Eisenberg. Might have been what the script called for, but if he could just play a different character, that would’ve helped a lot. The sets are good. Not amazing, but appropriately cartoonish. It just goes nowhere although it has all the time to come up with something. Cinematographically, it’s not bad but it gets tiring to look at. That can’t be all that good either.
Not recommended. The plot is intriguing at first. The intrigue and mystery become dull quickly. A reveal, a critique, a commentary would have given some depth or a reason to exist. Since none do, it depends on its entertainment value which runs out fast. A surprising finale or a twist would have given it at least a chance, but it has none. Not worth a watch.
That will do for now.