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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Solaria (2011)

Director: John Hoey
Stars: Richard Sherwood and Daria Kalista
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
The biggest problem Solaria has is that it's really obvious how it's all going to unfold. You'd have to be one of those people surprised by revelations in Scooby Doo episodes to not figure this one out. That's unfortunate, because almost everything else is really well done. The look and feel is exactly right, beginning with the space photography that accompanies the title and introductory text; it continues looking wonderful as we hop inside the Solaria research station. The first shot inside sets the stage well: obviously futuristic, but very analogue with a cool colour palette. Even when we see the huge digital screen in front of Dr Alex Russell, with its requisite shiny graphics, there's a host of old school physical tech all around him: sockets, cables and industrial material. He shuts stuff down by pulling levers and turning wheels rather than just pressing buttons on his console and the great ensuing physical noises contrast well with the space age computer voice.

Even the story, apart from being obvious, unfolds smoothly. Alex is shutting stuff down because the Earth is so low on resources that it can no longer maintain space research stations. He asks for more time, but he's already had as much as can be given; at least his station is the last to go. He wants the time because he shares the station with Rachel, a test subject who fell into a coma decades ago but has ceased to grow old. She's apparently in her fifties but she looks to be in her twenties. The potential for scientific breakthrough is astounding, especially for a talented young geneticist like Alex, but it's all about to end because the shuttle coming to pick him up only has room for one passenger. 'One has to pay dearly for immortality,' he explains, and the full impact of that doesn't take long to be outlined, given that this is a twelve minute short film. The running time and the effective cast of two combines to provide the inevitable surprise ending.

Inevitability aside, this is a strong little short for such an inexperienced cast and crew. There are only two actors, neither of whom have any other credits. IMDb lists five crew members and the film's website adds a sixth, but again, this is the only film any of them seem to have worked on. Yet they all do fine work. On screen, Richard Sherwood dominates proceedings as Alex, partly because his co-star Daria Kalista has very little to do for the most part except to simply lie there and look cute, but also because he manages to convey both that he's a capable scientist and that he has strong feelings for his subject. Some may wonder where all the space age gadgetry is but there's no need for it. I liked the old school approach taken throughout that earns this Irish short a kinship with 2001: A Space Odyssey, though the score is ambient rather than classical. The film's apparent success bodes well for what John Hoey and his crew will do next.

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