Science fiction

Futuristic, space, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, alien, it’s all here.

The Tower

the_tower_movieLensed partly at the MacDonald Block (an Ontario Government building in Toronto), a co-production of Hamilton’s CHCH-TV and with provincial trillium logos aplenty, the only way The Tower could be more Canadian was if it condescended to Americans and referenced the ’72 Summit Series.

It’s fitting that this was filmed on Ontario government property as The Tower is a film about failed green energy technology.

The edifice in question is completely energy self-sufficient and is the headquarters of the mysterious Sandawn Corporation.

In order to conserve, or how mobster Tony Soprano would put it in New Jersey-ese, “con-soive,” the tower draws heat energy* from wherever it can find it.

So far, so good.

However, when there’s a system malfunction, the device sets its sights on human beings — and with wonderful, if cheesy results — where people disintegrate and disappear into the low budget ether. (This is made-for-TV Canadiana from 1985.)

This will resonate with anyone who’s ever blown a fuse. It’s a darn great conceit.

The first sign of trouble is when one of the building’s secretaries is availing herself of the state-of-the-art tower’s corporate swimming pool. She’s zapped trying to change the Jacuzzi settings.

Mr. Sandawn, the graying CEO, is a serial philanderer and the subject of a kidnapping plot by a male/female criminal mastermind duo, there if only to add to the body count and offer an excuse to get people into the structure off-hours. Ditto for the security guard Jerry, his girlfriend, a couple of frustrated ad men working late, and Sandawn’s suspicious missus. It actually works in the film’s favor that this building is mostly abandoned, as hundreds of salary-men rushing to the exists would’ve undermined the frights.

the_tower_movie_canadian

Anyway, when one of the ad men is burned in the leg and has to be hustled down a stairwell to escape, the building’s survivors are compelled to try and figure out a way to de-activate the tower’s killer BTU-sucking energy system, dubbed “LOLA.”

In our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons, we have a section called “Deadly Machinery,” which is the closest thematic category to this cheapie oddball we could find. Even though that chapter’s devoted to killer laundry presses, trucks, curling irons and propeller and other such conveniences, The Tower would have fit right in.

In horror films, particularly the nature-run-amok genre, events are set in motion by evil corporations. Here, it’s corporate social responsibility gone horribly wrong.

The tower is highly original, fun Saturday afternoon sci fi fare.

*** (out of 5)

[*Editor’s note: Writer/director Jim Makichuk tells us that the story was inspired by a building in Calgary that actually did draw heat from its occupants]

Subterranea

subterraneaMistaking appearance for reality is the premise behind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where prisoners shrouded in darkness, perceive nightly flickering shadowy puppetry on a wall as the real world. In Subterranea, a Man with No Name is raised from boyhood to an adult in pitch black, his only contact to the outside through a mail slot.

It’s through this portal that he is given an education of sorts (if not exposure to vitamin D) by a mysterious figure known only as The Provider, who…um…”provides” the youngster with sustenance and materials read aloud.

Decades hence, The Captive (played by Bug Hall) is then released into the big, lit, color cacophony that is the world – alone, confused and with nowhere to turn. He emerges, cowering and fearful, as a subway train rattles past. It’s a pretty compelling introduction, not dissimilar to the jarring opener to the Pascal Laugier masterpiece, Martyrs.

Once free, a small time hood, the base, homeless Remy (Nicholas Turturro) tutors The Captive in the ways of his dog-eat-dog code of ethics, taking a shine to this “Rip Van Winkle” who understandably has only a limited understanding of social convention. The innocent is conscripted as  Remy’s accomplice, stealing charity donation funds from coffee shops, grifting, living out on the streets and then graduating to more dangerous crimes.

That’s when a woman Maya (Amber Mason), a material witness to a felony, takes an interest in The Captive and intervenes and the twosome try to fill in his backstory while the police sniff around.

Turns out there are others out in the world like The Captive, all of whom are trying to find out what happened to them and how their lives ended up as they did. One could consider Subterranea an extended metaphor of abuse in the Catholic Church, and the film spins a wholly intriguing unconventional narrative before slumping a little bit toward the back-end.

Still, a valiant effort. See for yourself.

The Montana-lensed indie flick was recently a Vortex Sci Fi and Fantasy Grand Prize winner at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. MVD Entertainment Group acquired the rights to the film.

*** (out of 5)