“THIS IS NOT A TEST.”
Category: Anthology, Sci-Fi, Viral
Directed by: David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry
Written by: David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry
Starring: A.J. Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn
Music: Ben Lovett
The past few movies I’ve watched have been pretty lackluster. None of them good or bad enough for me to even want to talk about, they just bored me. I needed to get out of this rut, I thought the ridiculousness of Dead Sushi would entertain me but I wasn’t feeling it. Then I found this in my library so I put it on and finally found something refreshing. Taking an interesting approach to film making; writers/directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry each direct a segment, called Transmissions, of this fairly linear story, each adding their own style and approach to the storyline while fleshing it out from different angles. Having different directors handle the same characters and story could have led to a disjointed and messy film but they were able to effectively work together to make a very cohesive movie.
On New Year’s Ever a mysterious signal broadcast across various media devices invades peoples’ mind and turns them into violent psychopaths. Caught up in this madness is Mya (Anessa Ramsey), her husband Lewis (A.J. Bowen), and her secret lover Ben (Justin Welborn). The opening sequence establishes these characters (and shows a cool clip of a splatter film that’s on the DVD) before we jump head first into hell with the Transmissions. Transmission 1 is basically Mya’s story. After leaving Ben’s place she arrives to her apartment complex, dodging people running rampant in the hall, opening her door to her husband and friends trying to fix their TV. He’s suspicious of where she’s been, as they were unable to contact each other due to phones being down throughout the city. She goes to take a shower but before she gets the chance Lewis starts to beat one of his friends with a bat. She hauls ass to the hall where all of her neighbors are killing each other, the rest of the Transmission concerns her escape. Transmission 2 takes a break from the tense tone of the rest of film, presenting us with an off-kilter black comedy. Anna (Cheri Christian) is getting ready for a New Year’s party, oblivious to the chaos going on outside. After getting attacked by and killing her husband, her landlord Clark (Scott Poyress) arrives with a variety of other characters showing up. With this segment Dan Bush begins to delve deeper into the mind of these crazies, showing how they think and struggle with fight between their own humanity and the signal’s mental infection. Lewis gets most of the limelight in this segment. Transmission 3 is more or less Ben’s segment. Returning to a more serious, albeit trippy tone, we are again shown more of how the signal effects these characters’ minds. Ben teams up with Clark to try and find Mya before Lewis does while struggling with the ever looming effect of the signal.
Transmission 1 is shot in a pretty straightforward fashion, it’s gritty, dark and tense. The tone reminds me of 28 Days Later. Transmission 2 as aformentioned is mostly a dark comedy, featuring some over saturated colors and quirky acting. Many of the characters seem totally unaware of the effects of the signal. Transmission 3 is a bit of a combination of the two segments, featuring an oddly funny scene involving a decapitated head, then some eerie, mind bending hallucinatory scenes. Despite changes in tone the performances and story flow consistently. All of the acting is great, I’m a big fan of A.J. Bowen so I loved his character. One of the unassuming party guests, the mustached Jim (Chad McKnight), provides some excellent comic relief with his grossly sexual quips. Some of the scenes in Transmission 2 are pretty absurd and do take away from the tone of the overall movie, but I liked this intermission from the tension of the rest of the film. I could see how some people would be put off by it. I really liked the film’s approach to showing how the signal effects people from their point of view, they’re not mindless psychopaths like in Cell or 28 Days Later, there’s still humanity struggling to overcome this affliction.
There’s plenty of blood in this film, although the gore isn’t necessarily explicit. The film was shot very well in that it feels so much gorier than it really is, other than seeing a head getting beat in, it’s mostly just plain old blood being thrown around. The film was on a fairly small budget although it doesn’t feel like it thanks to the great cinematography and direction. I think it added to how dark the film was, a big budget could’ve really brought it down. The score is pretty good too, featured throughout the film is Ola Podrida’s cover of “Atmosphere” by one of my favorite artists, Joy Division.
Overall, I really loved this movie, I can’t think of anything that I don’t like about it. I could see how the somewhat slow pace and weird quirkiness of some scenes could put some off. I loved how off-beat this was though, it gave this movie a unique voice without coming off as totally ridiculous. It’s engaging, tense, funny, and the changes in pace keep things interesting. I highly recommend this to an open-minded film fan.