Pod (2015) – By Jim Morazzini

 

Two not very close siblings venture out to the family’s lake house after a frantic call from their PTSD afflicted brother. We’ve already seen out in the snowy woods hunting something, or perhaps being hunted by it. Whatever it is this encounter pushes him right off the deep end into full blown paranoid madness. When they arrive they find him holed up in the house, windows covered with tin foil and ranting about government experiments and claiming to have the results of one, the titular Pod, locked in the basement. Is he telling the truth or is he hallucinating? The arrival of a government agent in the films last act may be a clue, but little is what it appears to be.

Pod is as much a family drama as a horror film at times. The conflict is set from the start as Ed picks up his less than enthused sister Lyla. Ed is a successful doctor, his sibling the kind of train wreck who needs a bit of coffee in her morning whiskey. When they reach Martin he doesn’t want their company and makes it very clear. He makes this clear enough that the possibility of violence seems very real.

Things take off on several levels, from family discord to PTSD and it’s effects to conspiracy theories. Martin claims to have been used in psychological experiments by the military, and that what he has in the basement is also the results of government experimentation. At one point he makes an interesting observation that Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Whitman and Timothy McVeigh were all veterans.

Obviously in a film like this the acting is going to be crucial to its success, and all three leads hand in solid, convincing performances. Lauren Ashley Carter’s performance does tend to turn into a lot of screaming and crying at times but that’s as much a fault of the script. Dean Cates and Brian Morvant do well as the brothers with Morvant bringing a definite sense of menace to his portrayal of Martin. Genre icon Larry Fessenden does what he can with a small role, one which definitely does not justify his top billing.

Writer/director¬† Mickey Keating does a good job of creating a script that works well with the film’s budget. By centering the script on people rather than events he keeps the cost down and sets it up so that when they arrive the effects have a much more forceful impact. Keating’s only previous feature was 2013’s Ritual though he has two others currently in post production, Darling and Carnage Park, he’s definitely somebody to keep an eye on.

I’ve seen Pod compared to to William Friedkin’s Bug and I can see the similarities, but the film that came to my mind was Norman J Warren’s 1981 film Prey, (aka Alien Prey), an uncharacteristically restrained film from the English exploitation master that uses an alien presence to frame a three person character drama. And for most of it’s 78 minute running time Pod is a drama, it’s only in the last 20 minutes once we finally get into he cellar that things shift gears. And once it does things get very nasty very quickly.

Pod isn’t a film for everybody, those who need constant shocks and violence will be bored and lose interest. Those that are willing to dig deeper will find Pod to be a rewarding watch, with a real world anchor to it’s other worldly elements.