Vivarium – MIFF Review: A Creepy, Low Budget, Very Original Film

Irish Director Lorcan Finnegan flew in to introduce his film, Vivarium, at its Australian premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival, and when he said it was a “mind-bending” film, he wasn’t lying.

Vivarium opens with some of the creepiest credits I’ve ever seen, before we are introduced to the two main characters, Gemma, played here by Imogen Poots, and Tom, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Gemma and Tom are in the market for a new home when they come across the office for the “Yonder” development. Upon entering they are greeted by salesman Martin, played by Jonathan Aris, in the creepiest role you’ll ever see. Martin tempts Gemma and Tom to take a trip to Yonder to have a look at what’s on offer. While inspecting home number nine, Martin leaves, trapping Gemma and Tom in the development. From here on out Vivarium becomes a slow-burning rollercoaster that does nothing but make you ask questions like “What the hell is going on?”. It’s not all creepy though, with a fair share of laughs to ease the creepiness.

An example of the creepy nature of Vivarium is the delivery of a baby boy in a box that Tom and Gemma are forced to raise. It’s here that things really start to get tense. The boy, played by Senan Jennings, is not normal, frequently mimicking Gemma ad Tom and screaming whenever he doesn’t get his way. It’s – here’s that word again – extremely creepy.

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg give out some good performances in Vivarium, nothing out of the ordinary for either, they’re both very capable at their craft. Eisenberg’s physical performance is great, as his body withers from the efforts of trying to escape the development day in day out. He whimpers and groans with every movement. Poots and Eisenberg have good chemistry, they’ve worked in several movies together, and I think this has helped develop their on-screen chemistry.

While Poots and Eisenberg are solid, the main performer that really takes the cake is Jonathan Aris. His erratic movements and the way he talks is genius, both of which helping create a screen presence that suggest you should never buy a house from him, no matter how cheap it was. Senan Jennings is utterly freaky, it probably helps his speech is distorted at times, but regardless, he does incredibly well. As does Eanna Hardwicke, who plays the boys, grown into a man. He does exactly what Senan does, he just adults it.

Cinematographer, credited as only McGregor, does a great job at causing a claustrophobic feeling. Even though the pair are roaming in an entire estate it feels like they have no space whatsoever. That feeling is helped by the fact that every house in the estate is exactly the same. They look the same, and they are the same colour – the most disgusting green, ever.

Lorcan Finnegan, who is also give a ‘story by’ credit, has done a great job creating an interesting, very original film, along with writer Garret Shanley that will leave you wondering why low budget Irish films like Vivarium and The Hole in the Ground aren’t something you watch at least once a week.

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Jonathan Aris

Writer: Garret Shanley, (based on a story by Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley)

Travis Akbar

Travis grew up on the west coast of South Australia and has been interested in film since seeing Jurassic Park and Predator for the first time in the mid-nineties. Particularly fond of the action and thriller genres, he met his long-time idol, Jean Claude Van Damme, in 2016, talking with 'the muscles from Brussels' about his upcoming films and the hurdles he has faced in the entertainment industry. Some of his favourite films include Jurassic Park, The Salton Sea, Apt Pupil and Any Given Sunday. Travis loves the way a film can make people feel such a diverse range of emotions, from excitement and happiness to fear and sadness. He believes that creativity is what helps the world evolve and that the arts, is the centre of creativity.

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