Remember when I reviewed Ritual and mentioned that I thought that movie gave viewers a glimpse into the potential of its director, Mickey Keating? Well, to test this hypothesis (i’m a science teacher), I checked out Pod, his (also) low-budget follow-up to Ritual. You’ll recall (of course) that I didn’t LOVE Ritual, but I did like it and I felt it evidenced (yes, that’s a verb. look it up) a young talent on the rise. So, it was with high expectations that I clicked play. How did it fare? Well, read on to find out!
Ed convinces his immature/chemically-dependent little sister, Lyla, to accompany him to the family lake house to intervene in their brother, Martin’s, apparent psychotic breakdown. The message he left on Ed’s answering machine (the movie might be set in the early ninenties but it’s unclear) was VERY paranoid/rambly. When they arrive, they find Martin rambly and paranoid. He claims that a government experiment monster that he calls a “pod” (THE titular pod) tracked him from his days in the army in “the desert” and killed his dog in the woods. Now he has it trapped in his basement as proof of the government’s nefarious doings. The visiting siblings diagnose their brother as T.F.N. and scheme to get him to a psychologist. Martin is not into the idea and takes drastic steps to avoid that trip. Meanwhile, the noises from the basement are either from an innocent human being that Martin has imprisoned, or maybe Martin wasn’t as crazy as they thought he was.
I wish that I hadn’t seen the Netflix images that cycle when “more info” for this movie is selected. It gives away a little bit more than it should. Not quite a full blown spoiler, but…Avoid it if you can. That said, it’s still a pretty rad fucking movie. (end of review. now go check it out.) Keating has squeezed every drop of dread and doubt from his micro-budget chiller. He relies heavily on his tiny cast to push the story along through their intense interactions. This is quite a gamble for a low-budget film, but the actors turn in rock solid performances across the board. Brian Morvant (Martin) plays his tragic fallen soldier with a frenetic energy and unpredictable fervor that could easily have crossed over into eye-roll worthy scenery chewing. But it didn’t. And Keating’s blocking really adds to the overall sense of unease that is pervasive throughout the film. Characters crowd the frame when they’re arguing or in cahoots but stand isolated in long shots when they’re at odds with the rest of the group. The cinematography is spot on as well. Especially once the story moves to the claustrophobic confines of the lake house. The place is a dark and dismal paranoiac’s nest, complete with aluminum foil blacking out the windows. Light from off-yellow incandescent bulbs, an old tube television, or streaming in through small tears in the foil only just sufficiently illuminates characters and dust motes in the air. And when the lights go out, Ed’s tiny flashlight does little more than make things creepier. (don’t blink during these scenes) by the time Larry Fessenden makes his cameo appearance (in a role that is admittedly a little hackneyed), viewers feel like they’ve been put through a ringer! (in a good way)
The Final Cut: Pod is a near-perfect low-budget chiller with solid performances from its tiny cast.