‘Pod’: Film Review

Mickey Keating’s low-budget horror film concerns a PTSD-afflicted veteran who claims to be the victim of a mysterious government conspiracy.

Beginning with its opening credits that flash by in a mere few seconds, Mickey Keating‘s (Ritual) sophomore feature indicates that it has no interest in leisurely storytelling. Depicting the fraught encounter between two siblings and their PTSD-afflicted brother, Pod has a hallucinatory quality that makes up in ferocity what it lacks on cogent storytelling. Having recently received its world premiere at SXSW, the horror film seems a natural for midnight screenings, especially since its frantically paced 76-minute running time guarantees that its audiences won’t get home too late.

Displaying influences ranging from The Twilight Zone to such recent paranoid conspiracy thrillers as Bug, the film begins with Ed (Dean Cates) and Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) traveling to the remote Maine cabin where their combat veteran brother Martin (Brian Morvant) lives. Ed has dragged his reluctant sister along for the trip after receiving a frantic message from Martin, but what they find is even worse than they anticipated.

The Bottom Line

Taut atmospherics aren’t enough to compensate for the overly familiar storyline.

The clearly disturbed Martin begins raving about a mysterious conspiracy and the “pod” contained in his basement. He also claims that the government has planted some sort of tracking device in his teeth, with a resulting scene of gruesome, self-inflicted dentistry definitely upping the proceedings’ “ick” quotient.

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Although Ed tries to instill some calmness to the situation, Lyla completely devolves into a hysterical state. Martin, meanwhile, begins to make some sense. He does, after all, point out that the one thing that Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Whitman and Timothy McVeigh had in common was that they were all former soldiers. It’s definitely food for thought.

That’s about it in terms of the plot, which eventually involves a mysterious trench coat-wearing figure (veteran horror filmmaker Larry Fessenden, in a nicely referential bit of casting) who shows up to wreak more havoc.

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While there’s something to be admired in the film’s economy and tightly controlled atmospheric tension, its effectiveness is limited by the derivative storyline, mostly unmodulated performances and the obviously miniscule budget that results in some cheap-looking — spoiler alert — creature effects for which the kinetic photography and editing provide only partial compensation.

Production: Alexander Groupe, High Window Films, Illium Pictures, Pod Pictures
Cast: Lauren Ashley Carter, Dean Cates, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden, John Weselcouch
Director-screenwriter: Mickey Keating
Producers: Mickey Keating, Morgan White, Sean Fowler, William Day Frank
Executive producers: Ryan W. Keating, Lauren Conoscenti
Director of photography: Mac Fisken
Editor: Valerie Krulfeifer
Composer: Giona Ostinelli

No rating, 76 minutes