Subject Two

Dir: Philip Chidel
Star: Christian Oliver, Dean Stapleton

Playing almost like an art-house version of Re-Animator, this centers on medical student Adam (Oliver), who gets an invitation from Dr. Franklin Vick (Stapleton), to help out with the good doctor's medical experiments in a remote Colorado lodge. On his arrival, Adam discovers that 'helping' actually means 'being the subject of,' with Vick killing him off, then using a serum he has developed, along with nano-technology to re-animate his assistant. Then killing Adam again. Rinse. Repeat. The repeated resurrections have two effects on Adam, in opposing directions: physically, he's getting stronger and becoming harder to kill. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually, however, it's quite the opposite, with Adam beginning to feel as cold and distant from humanity as the mountain landscape he inhabits. And if he's subject two, who was his predecessor, and what happened to him?

The other obvious touchstone is Frankenstein, and the book rather than most of the well-known movies, with the monster being smart enough to argue the moral situation with his creator. It feels almost like a stage-play, and a lot of the weight has to be carried by the two leads; I'm not sure they're quite up to it, Oliver in particular. While I see the point of the physical isolation - reflecting Adam's increasing feelings - the film does belabour its point in the middle sections to the point of tedium. It could have been more effective in an urban situation, contrasting and comparing his decay with the alienation that's part of modern life. The most interesting moments are when others are brought in to what's otherwise a two-hander, and the contrast between the dysfunctional central characters and normal people becomes particularly stark. I certainly admire and appreciate what it's trying to do; I just find that the flaws are too obvious to ignore.

[January 2009]

The circle of life
See also... [Index] [Next] [Previous] [TC Home Page]