Tom(Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma(Imogen Poots) are ready to settle down and start a life together. For them, the first step means finding the perfect home. They soon find a real estate agency, Prospect Properties, which specializes in finding affordable homes for first time buyers. Real estate agent Martin(Jonathan Aris) greets Tom and Gemma in the lobby and tells them about Yonder, a brand new housing development. Despite his strange and eccentric ways Gemma and Tom decide to follow Martin to Yonder. It couldn’t hurt just to look, right? After the viewing it’s decided that the hundreds of identical houses and overall creepy esthetic of Yonder is not for them. Tom and Gemma get into their vehicle and drive away. There’s only one problem, entering Yonder is a lot easier than leaving.
Vivarium is a horror/mystery directed by Lorcan Finnegan. Similar in style to shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, Vivarium takes seemingly mundane activities and turns them on their head. In this case we see purchasing a house and starting a “normal” life through a different lens. Vivarium does an exceptional job in making the viewer uneasy in experiencing what is happening to Tom and Gemma. As the mystery deepens we see parallels to our own lives, which is a quality all the great horror morality tales have. Through great storytelling, writing, cinematography, and acting we see Vivarium‘s message being delivered. One of the standout cinematic elements was the unnerving visual of the rows of uniform houses, brilliantly playing off of the fear of being lost. Also, after being introduced a half hour into the film, Senan Jennings delivers one of the most uniquely horrifying child performances I’ve ever seen.
As is common with this genre, I can safely say Vivarium won’t be for everyone. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the type of film you’re making, I do feel Vivarium leans too bizarre. The more unbelievable the scenarios the more the audience may disconnect with the real life connections being made. Vivarium has an interesting and powerful message about the pitfalls of structure and normalcy that gets lost in the increasing horror and chaos.
Vivarium is an incredible addition to the expanding library of horror/mysteries. The genre has seen a revival as of late with Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us seen as shining examples. Vivarium stands right next to these films as one of the greats. I would recommend Vivarium to anyone who enjoys their horror mysterious and incredibly weird.
I give Vivarium 5 out of 6 reels.
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