Neill Blomkamp, don’t let me down.

District 9 (2009), and even more so its short film predecessor, Escape from Joburg’, represented a fresh take on classic theme of Man against Society. Even more incredibly, it diagrammed Apartheid using humans and aliens for a Western audience who may not be familiar with it, using Johannesburg itself to great effect as a dramatic backdrop.

It was awesome. It singlehandedly revived the ‘found footage’ style of film for me.

Then we had Elysium (2013). Props for using Sharlto Copley again, and who doesn’t love MATTT DAAAMON? I love Matt Damon. Not even Jodie Foster could save this lumbering snoozefest of a story, though. Admittedly, it has a beautiful and unique setting… I have always wanted to see a movie set in an O’Neill Cylinder since I first read Rendezvous with Rama, on which count this movie delivers. The contrast between “us down here” and “them up there” is visually executed quite masterfully, to the point where all the other cues that this is a “Fuck you, I’ve got mine” society seem to become downright annoying. We get it, Blue Cross Space Shield is awesome!

(before you correct me, yes, I know, Elysium was technically a Stanford Torus)

I’ll gloss over Chappie (2015) — this one is definitely a love it or hate it, most reliably predicted by your love of Die Antwoord.

This brings me to Neill’s latest endeavor, the mundanely named “Oats Studios”.

Travelling to Oats Studios’ webpage greets you with this:

Experimental short films, or short films of experiments? The answer is probably “Yes.”

Clicking on the first trailer shows this:

and the second, this:

This is a lot to unpack here, but I will say I am intrigued. Here are a few stills from both trailers and the influences I’m picking up:

  1. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror:

Some of the overarching themes are at first glance reading much like a spin on Charlie Brooker’s formula for Black Mirror. This time, instead of a facet of modern technology being the “ingredient X” in the mix, this time, it’s going to be more Aliens and less You’ve Got Mail. Which brings me to the second big influence I’m reading:

2. Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and the Capital-A-Alien Archetype:

How does one say “Heads down, eyes forward” in Intergalactic Standard?

We get our first glimpse of something otherwordly in a shot that wouldn’t look out of place in a movie about slavery, prison, or even basic training in the military, once you remove the alien. However, I am pretty sure this is one of my former Drill Sergeants:

VO (no, really): THEY HAVE COME TO EXTERMINATE US

At this point I’m fairly underwhelmed. Then some magic happens. We see shots from what appear to be several different stories, starting with this shot that gave me chills, bringing me to the third influence I saw:

3. David Cronenberg. Oh wow! There’s definitely some Cronenberg here!

In trailer #2, we’re asked “Who are you, and what are you becoming?”

I bet this guy has a lot of sights he’d like to show me!
Grey Goo is the Son of a Preacher Man? Who knew?!

The line said in the above shot from trailer #1 is “COME, THEY HAVE BUILT A CONSERVATORY FOR US”. This is great. It’s terrifying, it’s vague. Everything is telling me not to get in this guy’s van, because the free candy is a scam.

Definitely not a scam.

The best part of good science fiction for me is that which makes me feel deeply uncomfortable about the unknown. This appears to have this in spades.

I’m cautiously optimistic and really excited to see what comes out of this. Neill, you came on to the scene with an incredible short film that thrust you into great success abruptly. Now you’ve had time and resources to get back to the passion and heart of what makes ‘good’ Sci-Fi ‘great.’

I’m on board. I can’t wait. Don’t let me down.

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