(Prime/VOD) A high-concept slow burn about a couple (Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg) who, in the process of looking for a house, find themselves trapped in an empty suburban development with no exit.
VIVARIUM recalls the hour-long episodes near the end of the first THE TWILIGHT ZONE run, the ones that still had a kernel of an interesting concept, but struggled to draw it out over the 50+ minutes allotted to them and, ultimately, left you feeling listless and frustrated, perhaps sighing loudly. Like those episodes, VIVARIUM has an intriguing concept, and there are a few interesting reveals peppered in, but watching Eisenberg and Poots — despite both injecting some much needed pathos into characters — try to crack the mystery of their situation while they waste away is a frustrating endeavor, especially as the film nears the end.
However! I still watched each and every one of those hour-long TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and never felt it was wasted time, and I feel similarly about VIVARIUM. Director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley — both of whom previously shared the same roles on WITHOUT NAME (2016) — make the film’s peculiarities feel fresh which, for a piece so focused on domestic roles and suburbia, is no small feat. Would I have preferred it to have focused on how three different sets of people would react when placed in this situation? Certainly, especially given the title of the movie, but this is the film we received, and it’s a film I’ll be chewing over for a while.
As usual, the trailer gives away too much, but here it is anyway: