What’s scarier: witnessing a loved one have a complete paranoid breakdown to the point of self-harm or it later turning out the he’s right, his manic ramblings about the thing in the basement are true? Mickey Keating’s new film Pod banks on this conceit, presenting a straightforward little thriller that packs an insane amount of energy into its 80 minute runtime. Pod takes an interesting approach to both the condensed paranoid drama (à la Bug) and the creature feature, resulting in a wildly entertaining film.
Pod follows siblings Ed (Dean Cates) and Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) who travel to their remote family cabin to check on their brother Martin (Brian Morvant), a veteran with a history of mental instability. When they arrive at the cabin, Martin is a in a rabid paranoid fit, rambling about a military conspiracy, transmitters in his teeth, and a “pod” he’s captured in the basement. Ed laughs off his brother’s claims and attempts to talk some sense into him while Lyla pretty much screams and cries the whole time. I adored Lauren Ashley Carter in Jug Face but in Pod her character boils down to a relentless barrage of frantic screeches and sobs. Silence is typically most effective in creating tension, but here it’s constantly shattered by Lyla running in circles.
Despite this, Keating does infuse the three estranged siblings with a solid sense of there being a troubled family history. This helps add weight to the already anxious scenario. They’re not the brothers and sister who send Christmas cards and visit on birthdays, so watching them try to diffuse a situation that could turn violent any moment is as awkward as it is disturbing. While Lyla screams and Martin hysterically rambles, Ed acts as the anchor preventing Pod from capsizing into full-on delirium. Until we see what’s in the basement, that is. Then all hell breaks loose.
Genre staple Larry Fessenden makes an appearance during the film’s third act. It’s probably the most put-together I’ve ever seen the dude, all clean shaven and dressed to kill. His character isn’t particularly explained nor is what’s really going on. Keating leaves much of Pod’s narrative ambiguous, which works at times but ultimately makes the film feel like an exercise in tension than a fully-fleshed movie. In our interview with Keating, he explained how the film is heavily influenced by The Twilight Zone and that’s exactly what Pod feels like in the end, like an extended Twilight Zone episode. For some that’s not going to be enough but I think it’s an entertaining ride that’s beautifully photographed (particularly the chilling exterior shots) and absolutely worth checking out.