Sci-Fi: Out There

Sci-Fi: Out There
Wetting the appetite for a visual feast is the extremely well crafted CGI of this highly kinetic introduction to the sci-fi program for the Worldwide Short Film Festival. A dystopian city environment styled after cyber-punk, Mad Max and the Final Fantasy games, Codehunters feels like a videogame preview edited for the ADD generation. There’s no dialogue, just astonishing animated characters — each wielding a unique weapon to help establish archetypical hero roles — and a lot of fuzzy, sharp-toothed insects and Orc/Stormtrooper hybrids to clobber. With an ending involving an attack on a train and the resulting release of a super-robot warrior, Codehunters appears to be a gorgeous teaser for a much grander vision. Opening with a man’s sleeping face pressed against the ceiling, the second short, Sniffer, establishes a stark, lonely world where everyone can fly but must stay grounded by big, clunky gravity boots and bed straps. A deodorant scent tester is inspired to follow his fancy for flight after a pigeon’s death interrupts his armpit huffing. Beautifully shot with a minimal synth score, Sniffer transitions well into the disc’s third and perhaps strongest feature. Highly effective with its brief run time and simple premise, X is a classically animated tale of a solitary space man whose ship gets sucked into a strange sphere covered in puckered tubes. When he’s spewed back out, it’s time for The Twilight Zone and an examination of the philosophy of copy fidelity. Isabelle and Stuart is next and is a reprieve from the excellence of the previous shorts. Shot in poor quality, this cheesy concept of geek love gone wrong is boring, ugly and overtly nerdy. Fuzzy logic based on a Hawkins reference regarding spontaneous combustion ends the relationship for good on a hot note. Separating the less serious fare on the disc is Deus In Machina. Stretching the term "short film,” Deus is an ambitious project. An Orwellian future society where everyone is monitored by "social credit” police robots finds a young man playing a deadly game to illegally alter his credit file. Visually, it’s a blend of live actors and flashy, sterilised CGI environments recalling the look of a pricey car commercial. While thieving heavily from the cannon of sci-fi classics, Deus sneaks in some updated satire and a satisfying twist conclusion. Working with a low budget suited to its minimal concept, Wookie at Work is prime office dork-fest amusement. Our beloved Chewie has an interview as an office temp, which he lands thanks to his natural Wookie charm. Though some of the office cast can be groan-inducing there are some serious money shots, including Chewie punishing a photocopier, grunting karaoke, slamming bar shots and getting busy on the dance floor with a co-worker. To offset the dose of Wookie slapstick, the second last short in this collection, 458NM, is an ambiguous and surreal encounter between two snails, filmed and edited into an art-house version of an Animal Planet show on the mating rituals of molluscs. Wrapping up this program is a witty play on the space ship and crew adventure theme. A French production, Terror On The 3918 brings fantasy to reality by having the ship actually be a house where every element is part of the ship but is only indicated as such by sound FX and the way the crew interact with it. For example, the tea cups arranged on the table are steering columns, washing machine knobs seem to be navigation equipment, the toilet is a video phone, the bathroom the medical lab and the ship’s computer is a desk crowned by a name plate reading "Mr. Brewster.” The spoof perpetuates hilarity through its plot of a mysterious creature eating all the ship’s fuel and driving the crew mad before flipping a final red herring and ending this fascinating and entertaining program of shorts on a whimsical note.