FanTasia2010: Phasma Ex Machina
[The festival may be over but I'll be doing some FanTasia follow up over the next few days. Catching up on films I missed prior to my visit to Montreal]
Cody cannot get over the loss of his parents so he turns to science to bring them back. But his efforts to bring them back are keeping him away from those around him and those who care for him. His girlfriend has walked away and he risks losing his brother if he cannot do simple things like get him to school on time. Cody spends endless hours and the insurance settlement money to build a machine which he hopes will bring his parents back from the dead.
His brother James acts out at school as a means with coping with his loss. This has the principal concerned and she calls in Child Services to observe the household and see if Cody is a suitable guardian. Meanwhile, Tom lost his wife to cancer years before but then she shows up in his kitchen. Tom, an electrical engineer, has been trying to move on and start another relationship but he struggles with those old feelings he had for someone who shouldn't be here. He tracks down Cody and his machine and pleads with him to shut it down.
Phasma Ex Machina asks the question, what if you could bring loved ones back from the other side? Cody believes that the two worlds, between the living and the dead, mutually exist. All that is needed is a bridge between the two worlds; that this bridge exists within the Electromagnetic Field. He looks for the solution in science and builds a machine that opens a door between the two worlds. But Cody is about to learn that you have no control over who comes back.
Phasma Ex Machina is very much akin with an indie budget thinking genre film like Primer, the obvious being a wink to science conducted in garages around America, but you won't have to rack your brains over the plot structure of Phasma either. And what Phasma may lack in budget it more than makes up for with good looks, good story and good chills. Phasma really is an excellent looking film and credit the great photography to Matt Osterman and his DOP Adam Honzl. Osterman's film finds a balance between a healthy dose of scientific theory and spooky paranormal activity with his engaging screenplay. There are also an appropriate number of chills and scares but I also appreciated the unsettling moments created by what could otherwise be looked at as blessings or miracles. Phasma is a quiet and slowly chilling ghost story that lingers around the fringes of your nerves.
This is an impressive debut feature film.