Cathedrals will fall, the river will run red... and THE BIRD will be SLAUGHTERED!

REVIEW: Artificial

– By Antony Thomas

I’m going to avoid a sententious rant interspersed with homilies about how horror has disappeared up its own euphemistic arsehole in a CGI-bathed feast of self-devouring tat, and proclaim that this short movie is good. Spanish (and by reference, Hispanic) movies usually exist through layers of understated black humour and developing horror subtleties. Good Spanish, Mexican and Argentinian directors push us into deeper waters where undertows drag us through dark places as the horrible situation that confronts us starts to uncoil before our eyes. One thinks immediately of Rec, Wild Tales and the sublime La Cabina as examples of unfolding storylines punctuated with creative lighting, dense evolving situations and imaginative characterisations of normal people who morph along timelines into blemished states of being.

Artificial occupies this space as a story on cloning humans to create perfect doppelgangers for sinister corporate purposes never really explained. Gorka Otxoa plays Xavier, a young man who’s interviewed in a high-rise office by an older businessman [a fine performance by the late Aitor Mazo] on behalf of a shadowy organisation known as CORPSA and offered 80,000 euros to provide some of his DNA and then take a short-term mind-erasing capsule.  What he doesn’t know is that he has already been selected. 

STOP. To go further. Let us not unleash the spoiler beast (and unless you’re my daughter, who  always wants to know who dies before we get to that point, I’m not playing this game).  Suffice to say, reader; the plot and characters switch in frequency and contrast leading to an unsettling dénouement.
While the futuristic concept of cloning or building replicas doesn’t strictly provide a nostalgia trip to Westworld or a flight to the neon worlds of Blade Runner; the message is that DNA human facsimiles are every bit as expendable as A/I replicants; thus providing a smart echo chamber for Nietzschian concepts of a future where people become commodities to harvest, exploit and dispose of/replace if rendered defective.  In this context, the narrative, pacing and soundtrack [an excellent electronic score by Jorge Granda] have similar laboratory biorhythms to Ex-Machina.  It asks the same questions about our mortality; are we eventually going to be supplanted by our own creations (thus nodding to the creeping paranoia of Invasion of the Body Snatchers)? As a short movie, Artificial also orbits neatly within the warped galaxies of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.
It’s an enjoyable short ride with an unnerving climax. Well worth climbing aboard. Just make sure that your fellow passenger doesn’t look exactly like you. Are you the original one?

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