+ Recommended – R, Sci-Fi, Horror
It’s been a while since I left a theater not knowing which way was up and which was down. Annihilation was fantastic in bringing something entirely new to the table.
Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is based on the the first book of a trilogy written by Jeff VanderMeer. The story follows Lena (Natalie Portman) and a group of four other scientists as they journey in to swamp-land that has been taken over by a strange phenomenon called “The Shimmer”.
I was really impressed with the acting in this film. While most of the time in the film is spent focused on our expedition group, Lena’s flashbacks power us through some of the more emotional bits and shed some light on what our main heroine may be thinking about as she slogs through the thicket. As a career soldier turned molecular biologist, Lena is in a rare position to learn as much as she can while also being able to defend the people she’s traveling with from unknown threats. In our group of four women traveling with Lena, we have Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson). This group is the first gathering of non-military personnel who are being sent in to discover what exactly is going on behind “The Shimmer”. So far, out of all of the groups who have been sent in to investigate, Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is the only one who has returned and he has little to no memory to be able to aid in the discovery of what is behind that holographic glimmer.
In terms of visuals, Annihilation is absolutely stunning in a grotesque sort of way. When your professor explains a concept of “the sublime”, this film is exactly what they are referring to. It’s too much in the same breath that it is not quite enough. Keep an eye out for unique depictions of the animals that have been locked in “The Shimmer” and how that may have changed the things living in this new world. Here, we have a really interesting concept where, the further in that our expedition moves, the more death we encounter and interestingly enough, the more beautiful that death becomes.
The soundtrack that accompanies this film is a strange blend of acoustic folk music and sic-fi synths that rattle your seat. Like the rest of the film, it is entirely new. One of the biggest reasons I was so impressed with Annihilation is the refreshing portrayal of horror this film pulls of so well. This brand of horror focuses on building of suspense instead of relying on constant jump scares. Make no mistake, if you are not a fan of gore, you might find this movie tough to sit through, because when it comes it is vivid. The way this film utilizes color to show not only the light, but the dark is a true testament to the artistry behind the creation of this story.
The longer I sit on this review, the more sure I am that I need to go and watch this movie again. I left with more questions than I had answers, but that was the point. A follow up film will be a necessary addition, I would just like to request two or three years so I can process what I saw.