Sci-Fi Week: Uncanny Valley

Premise:

In the slums of the future, virtual reality junkies satisfy their violent impulses in online entertainment. An expert player discovers that the line between games and reality is starting to fade away.

Review:

One of the many great things about the sci-fi genre is that it is a great platform for filmmakers of exceptional vision. As such we are treated to a feast for the eyes, ears and mind as writer/director Federico Heller introduces us to a world of virtual reality junkies, who separate themselves from the rest of society and indulge their darkest destructive fantasies. Playing with the concepts of reality and fantasy can make for tedious hypothesising, but in the right hands it can also be the basis for great concepts and incredible storytelling, such is the case here.


Heller liberally utilises some fantastic effects work but also puts a lot of emphasis on storytelling method. The film opens being shot in the style of a documentary complete with doctors working in outreach admitting that these virtual reality junkies are probably best off doing what they are doing. They don’t want a place in society and there probably isn’t a place for them even if they did. Right up there with the visual impact of the effects used throughout the film, are the moments where we see the real environments that the junkies live in and how the squalor of their real lives does not phase them in the slightest. Their only concern is getting back into their fantasy world.

Concept art of gaming addicts becoming lost to their fantasy.

We follow the film’s protagonist, played by Steve Kisicki, as he paints a remorseless picture of a life lived in fantasy. The opening shots that demonstrate the beauty of what he experiences when he is online, ironically are not CG-heavy effects shots. Instead we see the inside of a temple impeccably framed and illuminated by DoPs Nicolas Travato and Fernando Lorenzale. The depth of colour and light used here creates a serene and almost otherworldly feel, which stands in stark contrast to the intentionally muted colours of the interview scenes.


As the story progresses, we see the level of proficiency of the VR junkies as they dive headlong into a battlefield fantasy. It is at this point that the plot thickens, shifting from documentary-style into full-blown surreal action/fantasy. Here we see effects-driven action in full force as the players take on ghostly and alien-like creatures with military-grade skill in a sequence that is cinematically breathtaking. The effects and animation on display here is enough to rival any Hollywood stalwart and at the same time, it is still being used in service to the exploration of a concept and also the telling of a story that starts to take shape amid the battle. Diverted from the combat by a glitch in the environment, our protagonist stumbles onto a revelation that turns both worlds upside down.


A gamer goes deep into a very dark fantasy.

Heller and his team do well to squeeze so much into less than 9 minutes and by the end of the film we have been treated to a trip down a very intriguing rabbit-hole. We can only hope that Federico Heller and the magicians at 3dar, see fit to give us the gift of one more journey to the Uncanny Valley.


Studio: 3dar | Year: 2015 | Genre: Sci-Fi/Action | Duration: 9 mins | Suitability: Mature - Scenes of violence


Cast:

Steve Kisicki, Ivan Steinhardt, Nicole Apstein


Crew:

Director: Federico Heller | Producer: Federico Heller | Writer: Federico Heller


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