Updated: Aug 19, 2020
**DANGER** View with extreme caution.
Two students create a shortcut to induce hallucinogenic visions of God, and find themselves hunted by a deadly religious sect.
Stunning, beautiful, volatile.
From the second you step into The Brain Hack, it becomes clear that this film intends to take you as close to sensory overload as possible. Writer/director Joseph White’s tale of a film student documenting a software developer’s attempts to induce visions of God, develops into a visual experience unlike just about any short film you are likely to see.
Opening with a shaky, digitally distorted account of the killing of one of the main characters at the hands of an ominous masked figure, the audience is given immediate consequences for the path that zealous software developer Fallon (Edward Franklin) and film student turned disciple Harper (Alexander Owen) are about to embark upon. This lends an uneasy tone to the film’s opening third, which when combined with the conceit of Fallon’s assertion that what civilisation has perceived to be God throughout history is nothing more than a form of image-induced epilepsy, opens the door to a visually arresting and concept fusing fantasy/thriller.
As Fallon dives deeper into his quest to find the right combination of images to trigger this spiritual hallucination, the narrative dives into the blurring of fantasy and his reality as he attempts to conjure that very same phenomenon in his subjects. As Harper bears witness to Fallon’s loosening grip on reality, we are given a set of performances from both Franklin and Owen that mirror the darkly enchanting experience that they are trying to build. Additionally, with the opening scene cluing us in to the danger that awaits them, each mind-altering sequence of visuals is tinged with a sense of dark foreboding, making it impossible to turn away.
As has been alluded to, the visuals (both effects and Daniel Stafford-Clark’s cinematography) in this film are mind-blowing, but they are given weight and substance by their pairing with Jake Roberts and Christopher Swaine’s incredible sound design and elevated by Al Hardiman’s music score of ominous piano, electronica and deep swells. All of this is outstandingly blended with Joseph White’s visual storytelling, eye for detail and pacing (White pulls triple duty as writer, director and editor).
While many of the film’s strengths lie in its visuals, perhaps its most impressive accomplishment is getting a story with no shortage of plot into a sub 20-minute runtime. Hitting the right pace keeps the story moving along, even with the considerable amount of exposition that the opening third of the film requires. Without getting lost in the details, we are taken on a winding and perilous journey of two men, diving into the very core of human consciousness in order to upend religion itself. Flying through a labyrinth of science, art, history and at times horror, this film is a great example of the kind of cinematic experience that short film can deliver.
Studio: LWH Entertainment | Year: 2015 | Genre: Drama/Thriller | Duration: 19 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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