// Contains *SPOILERS* in the machine . .
Watch before reading!! //
I stood in the FRIGHTFEST queue for the premiere of British tech-horror CTRL just behind the film's director - Harry Lindley. He waited patiently to be let through. Someone asked him why he was queuing up to see his own movie and Lindley replied: "Because I bought a ticket . ." - respect!
CTRL is a youthful, smart, well-plotted techno horror. It's also pretty sassy, sinister - and decidedly sexy. A love triangle between brother, sister and sister's boyfriend (and a computer virus called Daisy with dreams of new world corruption to make that triangle a chain) is queasy and kinky in equal measure. Nah, who am I kidding? Its 1000 zettabytes of pure kink!
Trapped in a creepy apartment by the virus mutating monstrosity, the three humans fight to stay alive. Special effects and make-up are outstanding: decaying bodies, and flesh-eating moths rising out of black/ blue bath gloop are a triumph (the intricate veined detail on the moth wings is impressive - you have to pause this sequence on the trailer to see it though (which, for some above and beyond the call reasoning, prior to seeing this movie, I did!).
Scalextric shots of miniature car stunts never seemed so James Bond a thing than it does, in slo-mo close up, on screen here. Recurring future-predicting mirror imagery that taunts the beleaguered boyfriend betters a duller sequence seen in the most recent Star Wars. A computer human hybrid zombie called Tinkerbell (Mia Foo) appears briefly, but steals the show - give this girl her own movie!
Of the ace small central cast of just 3 (or 4, if you include ol' Tink) Saabeah Theos as Lex is especially terrific as a power firebrand of repressed desires, panic and snippets of peace and love: mostly just pretty tough cookie - a definite new face to watch. Hainsley Lloyd Bennett as boyfriend Dru up against brotherly competition in deranged Leo is suitably angry, accepting and bloody confused: I liked Leo a lot. I think he'd also make a brilliant Doctor Who companion one day! Julian Mack as Leo is also brilliantly unhinged yet also has an air of always being in control, even when clearly he isn't and has completely lost the plot, let alone his flesh (to malware moth munchers).
The director - Harry Lindley - adds lots of fun fast flair and urgency to claustrophobic and potentially (but nicely calmed) histrionic scenarios. This is a director who knows when to chill and when to really let loose - a swirling sequence careering to a dead stop as one character gets attacked by the black moths is just plain c/ol as f/ck!
Crowdfunded (many of those involved are here on the night) and shot on a shoestring budget, CTRL is a fast, quick-clipped, browser gone crazy nightmare scenario of a movie with a smart and convincing script and brilliant final payoff that puts films with bigger profiles and budgets to shame.
Lindley (best known for the breathless short: ODE TO A FUCKBOI) tells us in an intro that his next movie will be a futuristic version of Romeo and Juliet set in South London - bring, that, on!
Definitely not for the set-in-their-ways brigade, CTRL is fresh, vibrant, modern youthful horror cinema all grown up and a sign of things - both in plot and execution - to come.
It's a film that can be enjoyed as a modern housebound zombie horror - how Demon Seed came of age - or you can choose to go beyond the monitor and muse to your heart's content on some of the geek-techie ideas being explored.
WARNING: TECHNOBABBLE ALERT AHEAD!
And it's not all that easy to even review in words, let alone understand in your head, some of the plot elements and theories being explored. But essentially the film is based upon writer Kevin Kelly's book "Out Of Control" that looks into human/ machine hybrid births and self-determining technology with its own levels of control - the author gave his blessing for the film when approached. One chapter in the book outlines specifically "The Nine Laws Of God" that includes such rules as to: "Honor Your Errors" and "Control From The Bottom Up" (not just a Ron Jeremy rule of law then, as previously thought!).
These nine ideas were reduced by the filmmakers (Harry Lindley - director, story and screenplay / Julian Mack - story, producer and actor / Harriet Wade - producer) to five rules to "create something from nothing" - you can hear all five of these detailed in the film's trailer if you're looking for completion.
The birth of the machine gives rose in the film to malware monster Daisy (and friends - such as Tinkerbell) and cyberterrorism takes on human form: is this the future of human conflict? This is the Creeper's Worm (famous 1971 virus) turned into woman - a Frankenstein created virus; a being able to consciously think subjectively and experience for herself (also known as 'qualia'). Can Daisy feel and experience or is she just a new being separate from a human but similar in shape and form: going through the process of living and acting human without actually 'feeling' - a 'p-zombie' never more appropriate a term. Daisy, our 'something from nothing' does seem to have sensations of jealousy and even 'love' towards her creator Leo.
But the character of Daisy isn't explored to any great detail, instead we focus on the three members of the cast that are definitely all human: Dru, Leo and Lex. And it's probably a good thing as this central love and distrust triangle amid the rising of machine adds an identifying trick up the sleeve and a gritty, youthful, human zest that a computer/ human hybrid will always lack - personality replication (of the likes of Daisy) not all that advanced just yet.
The almost hysterical prolonged applause at the end of this screening pretty much tells you all you need to know: I'll be following this man's future movies with interest but for now: bring back Tinkerbell - right Harry?
BONUS THOUGHTS ON: "TECHNOLOGY - IN CTRL"
"TECHNOLOGY" in CTRL came with a really angry byte of forewarning about how corruption of deliberately bred malware attacks used as modern day combat (so often in the news now) or as a force of terror, or even for peaceful protest, could eventually breed an unstoppable monster in the machine.
It's a low budget production but with excellent special effects (black moth creatures from the gloop, skin-eating virus - yay!) and a brilliantly kinky 'love' triangle at its heart. This also comes with not just one, but two great human/ technology hybrids: a gadgetpunk zombie called Tinkerbell and a terminally corrupted computer stack called Daisy (with a god complex, possibly on the edge of a global viral fever rage-up).
Buzzing with a fresh and original purpose of intent and refusing to calm a modern, refreshing and edgy film-making style (scenes get clipped without lingering to create pace and vision) CTRL bins unnecessary exposition and conventional styling, and has a more naturalistic realisation of its characters to form a clip-like browse through a nightmarish, but also worryingly familiar, high tech suburban landscape.
STUFF WE'D PUT ON THE POSTER:
Frankenstein Created Malware!
High Tech Horror That's Totally Wired
A Monster In The Machine Mash-Up For Gadgetpunk Fans
Cold War Hacktivism Is Nothing Compared To "Daisy"
CTRL // @ ARROW FRIGHTFEST 2018 - LONDON
REVIEWED BY MARK GORDON PALMER