Updated: Mar 3
An astronaut encounters a terrifying anomaly approaching the International Space Station.
Taking real life events and myths in space exploration or military history and building a compelling premise upon it is proving to be a key ingredient in the continuously stellar work of writer/director Josh Tanner and producer/writer Jade van der Lei. After taking inspiration from the myth of the “lost” Soviet cosmonauts led to the phenomenal The Landing and exploring the psychological warfare of US forces in the Vietnam War led to the deeply unsettling yet no less brilliant Wandering Soul, Tanner and van der Lei now dive into NASA's SuitSat operation for their latest sci-fi/horror.
Inspired by the decommissioning ceremony of a space suit in 2006, which was converted into a satellite and sent into orbit from the International Space Station, Tanner draws out a simple but effective premise as astronaut Commander Diaz spots an incoming object which turns out to be the infamous SuitSat. Tanner does very well to mine mystery and tension from the events of the film as it quickly becomes obvious that all is not as it seems with the return of the antique space suit.
Special recognition has to be given to Joey Vieira as Commander Diaz, as he has to do the heavy lifting of communicating a sense of dread to the audience. Vieira’s performance works hand-in-hand with the sound design of Thom Kellar, who orchestrates a haunting medley of sound elements to herald the coming of an ominous presence. Augmented with the chilling imagery of the seemingly lifeless space suit itself, the levels of our panic-laden curiosity are dialled up to eleven.
This film is very much a showpiece rather than a narrative journey like The Landing or Wandering Soul, but it is an excellent demonstration of the kind of production quality we can expect from Tanner, van der Lei and crew. Watching Decommissioned is a short but immersive experience and for the short time that it lasts (just shy of six and a half minutes) it does a great job of dragging you to the edge of your seat.
While the effects used are impressive (very impressive actually), the lasting impact is made by the way Tanner crafts the atmosphere. The slow burn mystery and mounting dread are accomplished by knowing how to elevate a story from ‘plot’ to ‘experience’. Well-paced reveals and small touches like following up a jump scare with a shot of SuitSat fixed in frame while the earth rotates wildly behind it all add to the unnerving sensation of an impending threat.
With some very impressive short films already in the bag, Josh Tanner and Jade van der Lei make a very pointed statement that their game has been upped. This sub-seven-minute nerve-fest is a fine example of short film swinging for the fences.
Studio: Perception Pictures | Year: 2021 | Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror | Duration: 6 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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