You know those fish-bowl type bowls you see on people’s desks? Except they don’t contain fish, they have a miniature landscape garden inside instead? Well, that’s a terrarium, and you can also have an aquarium and the category these all sit within are, you guessed it, vivariums.
The definition is somewhere to keep animals in semi-natural conditions for observation or study. In Lorcan Finnegan’s (“Changes (Short)”, “Defaced (Short)”) film, this takes the form of a newly built housing estate called Yonder.
Gemma, Imogen Poots (“The Art Of Self Defense”, “Green Room”), and Tom, Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland: Double Tap”, “American Ultra”), are said young couple looking to purchase their first together home.
Martin, who won’t take no for an answer, or any other word, tells them to follow him to Yonder so they can see for themselves. The couple do and find themselves in an identikit housing estate where not only do all the houses look the same, they are also all painted the same colour green. That is to say, disgusting.
Entering number nine, the couple are resolutely unimpressed, but when shown the back garden, Martin vanishes, taking his car with him. Gemma and Tom jump in their own car but no matter what turn they take; they continuously wind up back at number nine. They drive for so long they run out of fuel.
Succumbing, the couple take to the bed in the hope of sorting things out in the morning. But the morning brings more dire news. Despite their best efforts, they cannot find a way out of the estate and every attempt seems to bring them back to number nine.
Without them seeing, large parcels are dropped in front of the house containing food, medicine and a child. The message stamped on the latter saying to raise the child to be released. This young boy, Senan Jennings (“Royally Ever After (TV)”, “Dave Allen At Peace (TV)”), is weird.
He shrieks when he wants food, he mimics everyone he meets perfectly and he grows up fast, really fast. He calls Gemma ‘mother’, though she replies regularly with ‘I’m not your f*cking mother’.
Tom, meanwhile, decides he’s going to dig his way to freedom and so spends his time digging a massive whole in the front garden.
Whilst Vivarium is a nice idea, a story that is very obviously about the horrors some feel when moving to a newly built housing estate, you get the impression it was a story that never quite managed to get fully fleshed out.
You see, it doesn’t really go anywhere, or do much of anything. There’s a slight foray into the supernatural, a hop into mind-bending surrealism, but generally it just keeps plodding along, hammering home what an annoying little sh*t ‘Young Boy’ is, perfectly, and rather freakishly, played by Jennings.
To me, this isn’t a movie about the horrors of a new build housing estate, but about the horrors of parenthood.
8th October 2020
THE QUICK SELL
A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses