CTRL Movie Review

Written by Joanna K. Neilson

Released by Wanderland Productions

Written and directed by Harry Lindley
2018, 80 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest World Premiere on 25th August 2018

Hainsley Lloyd Bennett as Dru
Julian Mack as Leo
Saabeah Theos as Lex
Mia Foo as Tinkerbell

ctrl poster


It seems we’re all a little scared of our technology. The massive popularity of Black Mirror makes that clear. Humanity gets more dependent on computers every single day, smartphones are now basically an extension of our arms and brains, so where will it all end? CTRL probes deeply into that anxious vein, playing with the possibilities of our computerised future, but taking its answer in a far more surreal direction.

It begins with Lex and her boyfriend Dru turning up at her brother’s apartment to rebuild their relationship after a break of several years. Lex immediately starts to reconnect with her brother Leo, a pretty unlikeable chap who’s mainly obsessed with his ‘Sentient’ computer programme, and in distributing dodgy looking USB sticks to his horde of masked followers. Nothing to worry about there... Both siblings are prone to games of extravagant lies that test Dru’s patience, and Dru grows increasingly suspicious of Leo’s furtive online activities. The three soon become a crowd, and a series of inexplicable events strain relations even further. Their claustrophobic situation intensifies after a power cut, and then things start to get... really frickin’ weird.

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This is not a typical horror movie, no groups of random teenagers investigating insane asylums here, but those familiar with Cronenberg’s films will have some sympathy and patience with its dreamlike logic, though it does lean hard towards pretentious as well. This is particularly apparent in Leo, who’s easily one of the most punchable characters in recent films; he’s cynical and very catty, but occasionally veers towards vulnerable as well. His sweetly eccentric sister Lex drives things along with her eagerness to reconnect, and gets extra points for bringing a Scalextric set into the flat. Leo and Lex both get more annoying when they can’t stop quoting Shakespeare and referencing Darwin, and evolutionary theory, over and over again. We are constantly reminded that the march of evolution is inescapable, and takes a certain brutal process, and eventually these comments feel overused. We get it, guys. At the other end of the spectrum, Dru is a sympathetic and likeable character, trying desperately to get himself and Lex back to reality, despite the siblings’ growing, co-dependent batshittery. You may in fact be yelling at the poor guy to run for it long before any real dangers become apparent. Leo’s isolated flat also feels like a fourth main character, its mood darkening as the three characters thrash within it.

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Making the best of its single, claustrophobic location, CTRL is a very beautiful film, despite an over-reliance on the flickering of crashing TV and computer monitors, which irritates as much as it sets the unreal mood. Many gorgeous close ups become hypnotic works of art. Grotesque black goop, neon pink and liquid shades of electric blue ooze and shimmer across the screen. Some rather good special effects are also used with sparing effectiveness, and it all comes together in a very satisfying way. This was clearly a labour of love which has emerged proudly from its Kickstarter background. Needing a bit of patience and some suspension of disbelief, CTRL is probably not to everyone’s horror tastes, but it’s well worth a dip into this trippy sci fi that ultimately hints at human technological apocalypse, and a possible, gruesome, evolution. At the very least, I reckon Black Mirror will probably steal some of CTRL’s core ideas for their next series.


Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover

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