Saturday 7 February 2015

DOUG.DAT (2013)

Director: Christopher Rowell
Stars: Rich Slaton, Hannah Prichard, Charlie Messenger and Joseph Steven
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
If you have any background in IT, the title of this film might speak to you. If you don't, let me explain the basic concept. A .dat file is simply a data file, a combination of ones and zeroes that has meaning when run through the right program. Here, that's an emulator, not one that we might run ourselves to emulate an old game system and run its old games, but a human being emulator, built by a man called Hobbes to run a man named Doug, digitally generated from the detailed image stored in an MRI scan. Clearly we're in the far future, given that DOUG.DAT is running on a QT-CPU, presumably a computer built on quantum tunnelling technology, with one petabyte of RAM. That's serious equipment, if you don't know the terms, but that just makes it all the more frustrating to see it physically represented in Hobbes' lab by recycling of hardware already obsolete to us today. Such are the drawbacks of making a short film without budget enough to let a technological imagination run loose. I've only seen Restitution ever get round that.

As the film begins, we're with the real Doug, or Douglas Grayson, to provide his full name, as he waits to have his MRI done. He's taking a sick day because he thinks something is seriously wrong. Dad suggests that it's just stress but he reckons he has microscopic tumours or some such. It's refreshingly banal and ultimately meaningless, which may be a succinct summary of Doug's entire life. However, after he finds himself placed into a completely different context, banal and meaningless can become important. I was more impressed by how this film addresses the concept of time than in the tech that allows Hobbes and Madeline to do what they do and the little drama that surrounds them as they're doing it. I only buy the ending in spirit though. This is an interesting concept, but it's sadly wrapped up in conventional clothes and can be torn apart easily; it deserved a better treatment. That said, I still enjoyed it being raised and thank writer/director Christopher Rowell and his very capable actors for that.

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