Vivarium (2020)

vivarium

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A couple’s search for a dream home becomes a terrifying nightmare in this very dark film from director Lorcan Finnegan.

Tom and Gemma are a couple who have been looking for a home for a while now. While the real estate is down, they come across a place called Yonder, led by a very mysterious realtor, Martin. Martin ensures the couple that the homes in Yonder will give them anything they need and want. As the couple think about their decision, they discover that Martin has left. When they attempt to leave the area, they find themselves in an endless loop that leads back to the house they were looking at.

The next day, the couple comes across a box and find a baby in it with an ultimatum. Should they want to leave Yonder, they must help raise the baby. Soon enough, the baby, a boy, begins to grow at a rapid pace. The boy begins to slowly stalk Tom and Gemma in an attempt to know what things are like. Their newfound parenting begins to slowly take its toll on Tom and Gemma, causing them to sometimes have a rift to where Gemma is attempting to parent the boy while Tom begins a slow descent into madness. As the boy grows up, things soon become even more chaotic. Will Tom and Gemma be able to make their way out of Yonder? Or will something more sinister be in tow for them?

Moving into a new home can be considered for most, a dream. However, co-writer and director Lorcan Finnegan takes the concept and turns into a visually enhancing nightmare of a film. And that’s not saying it is a bad film, because that is far from saying that. This film is about the human psyche and what happens when a couple find themselves into a possible dream home that ultimately becomes a maze of terror and a test of how much they will be able to take when an unexpected arrival comes in the form of a baby who for some strange reason, grows at a rapid rate, bringing a sci-fi element into the fray.

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, who were last seen kicking some serious butt in the dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense, play couple Tom and Gemma in the film and they do an amazing job, showcasing the chemistry that helped drive their previous collaboration to a wild ride of a film. Here, they find themselves at odds with everything they have to face when they find themselves in a neverending loop of identical looking homes in this strange community called Yonder, where they were greeted by the mysterious Martin, played by Jonathan Aris. Aris’ brief performance brings a creepy Bill-Nighy looking vibe when he shows the couple the home. Everything seen in the trailer comes within the first 25 minutes of the film and that’s a great thing because it is at that moment where the film really picks up the pace.

In a test of their human psyche, Tom and Gemma’s attempt to become unexpected parents mesh with a way to find a way out of Yonder. However, they are forced to raise a baby should they want to leave Yonder and as mentioned, the baby grows a rapid rate like a sitcom like Growing Pains jumps a few years later to go from a baby to a little girl within a season or two. The only difference being that the boy in this film is already a little boy in a matter of days or maybe months. Senan Jennings gives a fascinating performance as The Boy as Gemma figures out that perhaps he’s not really human and attempts to help him learn human traits despite Tom’s reservations. Tom, on the other hand, grows increasingly tired and begins to slowly descend into madness and chaos while trying to find a box buried in the yard.

Poots plays Gemma with a combination of anger, tenacity and yet she does play along for a good portion of the film and for a brief moment, it is as if she is sympathizing with the Boy. The only annoying thing about the film is Jennings’ use of screaming on numerous occasions, making both the couple and this reviewer irritated as he sounds like a teapot on the stove that is ready when the steam blows. The visuals come in well into an hour when Eanna Hardwicke plays the now-grown Boy who really amps up the disturbing value of the film and even shows a nice colorful nightmare that has to be seen to be believed.

Vivarium is a visually enhanced nightmare of a couple trying to find a home and end up getting much more than they ever expected with amazing performances by Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, and the duo of Seana Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke as the creepy Boy.

WFG RATING: A

Saban Films presents an Fantastic Films/Frakas Films production in association with Lovely Films, PingPong Film, XYZ Films, Madrona Films, and Screen Ireland. Director: Lorcan Finnegan. Producers: Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell. Writer: Garret Shanley; story by Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan. Cinematography: MacGregor. Editing: Tony Cranstoun.

Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Senan Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke, Jonathan Aris, Molly McCann, Danille Ryan, Shana Hart.

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