Sunday 24 October 2010

A Call to Arms (2008)

Director: John F McCarthy
Stars: Darren Kendrick, Antoinette Armande, Nicholas Job and Lawrence Brittain
This film was an official selection at the 6th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Tempe in 2010. Here's an index to my reviews of 2010 films.

An elderly lady is happily washing dishes when something big crashlands outside her house. We see her screaming but we don't hear her, because her voice is stolen by the swelling music that accompanies the ensuing fire. After the credits, we gradually discover that far from being a sci-fi horror flick that would have this lady consumed by an alien monster, it's a serious science fiction story about the planet being consumed by a fundamental problem that this explosion may offer a timely solution to. 'We as a race are on the verge of an energy crisis,' announces President Julia Sulaco, who is blonde and Aryan even though her bodyguards look like mob enforcers, or perhaps Men in Black. Sulaco is up for re-election and solving the energy issue would be the closest thing to a guarantee she could have. So she has her Secretary of Energy, Giles Barker, look at what what came out of the crash site, something apparently alien.

While ambitious with its story and capable with its acting, A Call to Arms felt sparse to me. There are just not enough people in the film, perhaps understandable given that it was a student short put together by John McCarthy as his senior year project at film school. There aren't enough in the lab where Barker does his research, as both politician and scientist, because he only has one assistant. There aren't enough where the President officiates, as she has just two bodyguards and half a dozen ministers. It all feels far more empty than it deserves to feel. There is a subtext of promise that reminds of Asimov's Nightfall, that civilisations may rise and fall in patterns but unfortunately that isn't explored. Instead we get a pessimistic tale with a dubious message: if something can be used for bad then it must be bad. In fact the film may be more satisfactory if the ending was swapped for the exact opposite message.

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