‘There are 5 laws to create something from nothing’ is the tagline for UK director Harry Lindley’s debut feature film, technological horror/sci-fi hybrid, CTRL. Lex (Saabeah Theos) and her long-suffering boyfriend, Dru (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) pay her reclusive brother, Leo (Julian Mack) a long overdue visit at his luxurious South London apartment.
It soon transpires that Leo is transfixed by an evolving computer virus, named DAISY; a virus he, himself created which holds the trio captive leading to destructive consequences beyond their wildest dreams. Tensions rise and revelations manifest, can the three survive on the inside and what will be waiting for them on the outside?
For a debut feature film, CTRL is a striking, confident and accomplished offering from a technical standpoint. The cinematography is exemplary, with each frame beautifully composed, showcasing stylish and pristine visuals, creating a real feast for the eyes. Lindley has single-handedly written, directed and edited the piece, which is no easy feat, however he has done a tremendous job in putting this film together.
Lindley evokes a claustrophobic and cloistered environment by keeping the setting minimal. Containing the action within the space of the apartment demonstrates how Lindley has utilized the low budget most effectively, working to his favour. He proves that a film does not need to rely on high-tech special effects to create something dynamic, intriguing or thought-provoking.
CTRL catapults from a quirky yet surreal slice of kitchen sink drama blended with genre to a trippy, mind-bending headscratcher of a movie. Too much happens all at once to completely take in on the first watch, therefore it may be worthy of a second viewing to process it fully.
Lindley updates the dependable horror/sci-fi premise of ‘the mad scientist’ who’s experiment/creation spirals out of control with a modern day, dystopian makeover. Tonally, there’s a hint of a Cronenbergian atmosphere featured with a British Cinema twist. CTRL primarily surrounds our reliance on technology and how its grown into a domineering being that we are unable reign in. DAISY is the idea that this artificial intelligence has surpassed humanity yet Leo (its programmer) becomes too apathetic to stop it. The characters adhere to its power, by not escaping which is an utterly fascinating albeit terrifying concept, especially in an era where we are all encompassed by our devices.
CTRL is well acted, Julian Mack plays Leo in an elusive manner with a presence of sheer madness surrounding him. The incestuous undertones between him and “sister” Lex is uncomfortable, leaving empathy for Hainsley Lloyd Bennett’s Dru, the saner member of the three. The trio are a strong ensemble and the driving force of the film. The amplified tension in their dynamic is more interesting than the sci-fi angle itself.
Luke Marzec provides a unique soundtrack that compliments the unusual tone and indie vibe of the film, bringing in a trance-inducing, downcast quality to the proceedings.
As stated earlier in the review, CTRL is a poised effort for a first film and Lindley has a promising future in filmmaking ahead of him. The plot does dwindle towards the end and in parts the film come across as quite convoluted. That said, it is a gutsy attempt and exceptionally well made. CTRL is certainly on the bizarro side of the genre scale with a great deal left to the imagination.
Screening at the Prince Charles Discovery One at this year’s Frightfest; CTRL received its World Premiere on the renowned horror festival’s blood splattered screen at 2:15pm on Saturday the 25th August.