CTRL is the first feature from Writer/Director Harry Lindley, continuing his collaboration with a number of cast members that featured in his previous short films ‘Ode to a Fuckboi’ and ‘Wanderland’. In this Lex (Saabeah Theos, ‘Ode to Fuckboi’) and boyfriend Dru (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) visit her isolationist brother Leo (Julian Mack) for his birthday. But as Lex’s intimate relationship with her brother come to the forefront, Dru decides to leave. As he makes his move DAISY, Leo’s pet project of an intelligent virus goes into lockdown and imprisons them in Leo’s flat. There they have to deal with their own emotions as well as the emergence of fractal parasitic plant life and black insects created by the DAISY program.
I came to this film with a degree of expectation. The premise fascinated me, the trailer suggested a complex inter-personal relationship between Lex and adoptive brother Leo, leaving Dru, Lex’s boyfriend to deal with the past that they share. All while DAISY, a computer virus driven by some AI coding imprisons them in Leo’s apartment.
However, upon watching I was left somewhat wanting for satisfaction. Namely while it did utilise some extremely interesting story-telling devices, like how the story of their parent’s dying was recounted using toys, we never completely understood the characters or their motivations. Leaving the characters somewhat bereft of dimension. This isn’t helped by the fact that some of the dialogue, while at times interesting like the opening scene as Dru and Lex make their way up the stairs to Leo’s flat, most of it felt lacking in emotion. This wasn’t helped by the sometimes questionable Shakespearean quotes.
The standout elements for me were the special effects, some of which really carried a degree of weight even though done on a shoestring. The swarm of insectoids in the bathroom and the holly bush and the make-up was really good. My biggest issue was the co-opted Megadrive, and the bank of junker PC’s which makes up the monolithic presence that represents DAISY. In reality, this wouldn’t work. If they were to run at the temperatures they do without adequate cooling they’d simply burn up, taking the Virus with it. But this is just a gripe on my part, I know that sort of thing isn’t important to everyone.
This isn’t the worst techno-body-horror/character drama I’ve seen, but neither is it the best. There were some really good ideas that came up but paid off too quickly, or moved to the side and forgotten about favour of the next big lynchpin scene. The audience therefore, never really gets the chance to fully understand the characters and their motivations.