Vivarium opens with Tom (Eisenberg) and Gemma (Poots) meeting creepy real estate agent Martin (Jonathan Aris) – a man whose mere presence makes you want to run and hide.
Although perturbed by Martin’s strange demeanour, the pair reluctantly agree to follow him on a tour of “Yonder”, an eerily empty housing estate with sprawling streets of identical homes. It’s “not exactly” what they’re looking for, but when they try to leave they find they are trapped within the labyrinthine streets, and as hours turn to days, a series of strange events pushes the couple to breaking point.
Imaginative and expertly directed (it’s the second feature film by director Lorcan Finnegan), each scene in Vivarium feels as though it has been crafted purely to make the viewer uncomfortable.
The script plunges you into the darkest recesses of the human mind, and the withholding of valuable information until the film’s closing scenes builds suspense to create a palpable sense of foreboding.
Eisenberg and Poots deliver emotionally charged performances as Tom and Gemma, whose characters gradually deteriorate under the physical and emotional strain of living in Yonder, while Aris and Senan Jennings, as the unnamed “young boy”, fully embody their disturbing characters.
Little information is offered to explain the events in Yonder or the behaviour of certain people, and this forces audiences to draw their own conclusions (although the title does offer a hint). The score adds to the unsettling feeling, with the music during the closing credits particularly unnerving.
Given current events, there is some resonance in Vivarium’s storyline, and if you are looking for a way to escape the claustrophobia and isolation of being cooped up at home this may not be the best film – but it does serve as a reminder that things could always be worse.
Vivarium is available now via VOD on Google Play, iTunes, Telstra, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment, and will be available on Foxtel on Demand from May 6.