Origin (Short Film)

18 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Some of the most interesting genre pictures are those that are dramas with quiet elements of fantasy, science-fiction, or horror that help serve the story. Caleb Fanning’s 20-minute short film “Origin” is an example of such films. At the surface is a dramatic love story about loss and starting over, while there is something else to make it unique. In this case, that “something” is the “creation-gone-wrong” element. Everyone knows this particular topic—man plays God, man loses. It manages to fit into this story well.

The story for “Origin” centers around a distressed woman (Mandy Fason) who is ready to grieve the loss of her husband (Wade King) when a doctor (Kenn Woodard) claims he has an experiment that will prolong his life. When the man dies, he is reanimated some time after. He seems like the same person and is hardly fazed that he’s been to death and back; it’s as if he’s come out of a coma. His wife welcomes him back and they pick up where they left off. But as time goes by, there seems to be something a little off about him, as he seems like he doesn’t belong in this world.

One of the most fascinating aspects about “Origin” is how well this story works. This is a husband and wife who try to continue with their lives and their relationship, but because of this unusual experiment, something seems to be missing this time around. It causes the woman to wonder what is the true reliable feature in this world—science or nature? She encounters the doctor again and he tells her some background about the experiment, and how this man was the first successful test. Then she wonders if the whole project was a good idea to begin with, and that maybe she could have let nature take its course if her husband died.

What has the man become? A dream (or rather, nightmare) sequence suggests something grisly. We can assume that he has become something that is one-part the man he was, one-part something else. And maybe the latter part is taking over slowly. The film ends ambiguously, so there isn’t a clear answer as to what has happened with him by the end, or what is going to happen. But it doesn’t seem man will stop playing God anytime soon. If this experiment continues, who knows what will happen?

Mandy Fason and Wade King do great jobs at making us care for this couple. I cared about their characters, feared for them, and by the end of the film, I felt sorry for them. One particularly strong scene is when Fason’s character knows she has to let go of what’s left of her husband and looks at a photograph of the two together, and weeps over it. It’s chilling because we believe the situation and Fason’s tears seem genuine. She’s terrific here, and so is King who has an equally difficult role of the man in question—if his transformation didn’t work, the whole film wouldn’t work.

Even though I wouldn’t have minded a little more clarity about certain ideas in the film, particularly in the final act, I still liked “Origin” for what it implies. And for people out there who search for new ways of changing the world as we know it, just be sure you know what you’re doing.

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