What Not To Watch During Lockdown
Everyone’s telling you about the streamers you should catch up with in lockdown, but what about the heavily hyped ones you should avoid? No, don’t thank me, I’m happy to share the three claustrophobic experiences below…
How many times have you asked yourself, ‘I wonder what Alien would be like if it was remade underwater by really stupid people?’ Now you have a chance to find out, because Underwater is a B-movie that cost $80 million to show you how to get it totally wrong. Kristen Stewart plays a Ripley-esque character with absolutely no personality traits. Instead she acts with a haircut and skimpy underwear. She’s a *looks up notes, can’t find any* ologist on a space, er, underwater station in the Mariana Trench, which is the only undersea trench anyone can remember the name of, and there’s a sort of alien thing in the water. The plot (that thing is the last sentence) has been removed like an infected tonsil.
Stewart and the other kids are researching to, oh, drill for oil or peas or or something, but the station is entirely populated by teenagers pretending to be scientists. The only adult is poor Vincent Cassell, who must feel like he’s an instructor at some kind of Gen X sea camp. Thirty seconds in things go bang, water comes in, people say ‘the breakers need realigning’ and a big jellyfish with teeth turns up. Variety points out that the visuals are so murky it’s like looking through raw sewage, but the raw sewage is the script. There is not a single line of dialogue that feels real or original. The director’s name is Eubank, which used to be a brand of carpet sweeper. No amount of sweeping up will remove this turd from the sticky carpet of Hollywood’s lowest movie tier. I can’t help wondering how many ventilators it would have bought.
Vivarium must have looked good on paper. An Irish production with Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, it’s a parable about a childless couple who get lost in a fantasy colour-coded suburbia and raise a cuckoo child in days, only to realise they’re in a parable about how awful life is, and how you get nothing from your children and you just die in order to let them start the process all over again.
The problem with parables is they make good Polish short films, but when dragged out to 90 minutes they’re cumbersome and obvious. The director’s decision to make everything look unreal (including the sky) destroys any tension or interest in the couple’s fate because we know we’re being fed a manipulative fable. Norwegian director Jens Lien’s ‘The Bothersome Man’ treads the same ground brilliantly and gets under the skin.
Vivarium’s worldview – that heteronormative child-rearing is a miserable soul-sucking trap – fails to take into account the pleasures of parenting and the joy that can be found in even restricted lives. Perhaps it will strike a darker chord with the young who can see their futures darkening day by day. But as the couple drive endlessly around their pristine suburb you’ll find yourself shouting, ‘For God’s sake just turn right!’
Here’s a film you shouldn’t watch, not because it’s terrible but because it’s too near the knuckle right now. The Occupant feels deeply uncomfortable during lockdown, which is changing our attitude to many films (Eon Productions, you might want to rethink the upcoming Bond title ‘No Time To Die’).
The Occupant concerns a middle-aged ad executive who loses his job and his beautiful apartment as the next bright young family steps into his shoes for their turn of living the dream. Rather than downsize with grace and let his losses go, the awkwardly short Javier Gutiérrez goes full stalker, keeps his old door keys (don’t you change the locks when you move into a new place?) and insinuates himself into the blameless family’s lives to ruin them out of sheer spite.
There’s a supremely painful scene in which he shows his portfolio to a pair of younger employers, who regard his campaigns with a glow of nostalgia before politely asking if he has anything recent to show them, but with such an unsympathetic lead who is the audience meant to cheer? As such it would make a good double bill with the superior ‘Sleep Tight’, but for now it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For better genre enjoyment I can recommend ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Little Joe’ and ‘The Hunt’.