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Vivarium


What a freaky little thriller. VIVARIUM has a hell of a good time taking a simple concept that would feel right at home on “Twilight Zone” and tweaking it with generous doses of humor, mystery and chills.

Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogene Poots) are a young, modern couple looking for a great home in the perfect neighborhood. What they find instead is the ultimate cookie cutter life. Every home is the same, every street is the same, every cloud is the same shape and every sky is the same perfect blue.

Thanks to production designer Philip Murphy (Reign of Fire) that’s a lot scarier than it sounds. His color palette is loaded with antiseptic hospital greens and too powdered blues. Perfection has never been so creepy.

Halfway through the house tour, their very strange host disappears and they try to drive out of the neighborhood, but there is no way out. Day becomes night.

Boxes are delivered in the street filled with food and everyday staples.

Soon a box with a baby arrives.

To say more would be to reveal the secrets of a fairly clever screenplay by Irish filmmakers Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley. I never knew where his story was taking me, but really enjoyed the ride.

That baby grows up fast and all the actors that play him are very good. The digitally altered voice of the young boy has the most deliciously disturbing tenor since Mercedes McCambridge took over Linda Blair’s vocal chords in “The Exorcist”.

Eisenberg is very good as Tom, much less open to living this new life than Gemma. Poots is excellent, battling her motherly instincts all the way to her final line of dialogue. The sequence in which Gemma asks the boy to play a game imitating all the people he met during his walk is a near perfect exercise in building tension.

With a $4 million budget, it’s fascinating how great the film looks. The neighborhood feels so expansive that you don’t realize the majority of the film takes place in that tiny house and teeny front yard. It makes all those moments that Gemma wonders out from #9 all the more suspenseful.

VIVARIUM is from the Latin for “place of life”, meaning an enclosed area for raising and observing animals. Very apt.

If you’re in the mood for a stylish 90 minute adult diversion, VIVARIUM translates into some interesting fun, earning a solid B.

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