Ross and Matt Duffer
Brandon Bales as Danny
Julie Mintz as Emma
Clark Baker’s short shocker, Vessel debuted over at bloodydisgusting.com yesterday, and having heard some rumblings about the picture, I had to check it out. As it turns out, the quiet rumors indicating this alien feature has some meat on the bone are anything but untrue. While not overtly original, Vessel is a very refined effort that leans on strong performances and some enjoyable monster effects (the digital work isn’t amazing, but it’s probably better than 90 percent of the straight-to-SyFy garbage released, and the practical work is absolutely kick ass).
The story utilizes plot points from a few past science fiction works, and leads off with an obvious nod to Rod Serling’s beloved Twilight Zone series and the insanely popular episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. After Danny spots a strange aircraft approaching the airplane in which he inhabits, he begins to spaz out a bit (rightfully so) and attempts to inform the flight attendant, Emma of the awkward sighting. Emma’s a little reluctant to buy into what seems a simple tall tale, especially after an examination of the skies surrounding the plane reveal no foreign flying objects. A minute or two later however, bright lights enshroud the aircraft, and they’re suddenly being transported (yes, the entire plane) from open skies to the confines of the alien ship spotted moments ago.
Working inside of a 12 minute box, it’s obvious that there isn’t much downtime before viewers get a solid shot of the inner regions of the strange ship, and a gnarly looking creature that happens to be anxious to make his presence known. The airplane door opens, tentacles force their way inside, and the chaos takes off at break neck speed. Ultimately we’ve got a story that lays the foundation for a much, much bigger obstacle – which I certainly hope makes it to film, as it could make for an entertaining invasion flick – and while the concept and creature itself may not be too unique (we’ve seen the tentacle dispensing bi-pedal monster many times before), Baker puts forth a respectable effort that goes a long way in making this one hell of an aesthetically appealing production.
Ross and Matt Duffer take on the writing duties here, and while they aren’t pushing the envelope, they do bring a very believable quality to the story (which isn’t all too easy, especially when you’re dealing with aggressive extraterrestrials, which we’ve all seen about seven million times). Mark Villalobos brings the goods with the creature effects, as I noted; this is one hideous looking beast that actually looks far more menacing than one might expect. These may indeed be practical effects (which often fall flat in indie features due to obvious budget issues) we’re dealing with here (for the most part), but this alien never once looks like a goofy stuntman in a rubber suit, thank the skies. Brandon Bales, who portrays Danny, is surprisingly good, and works charm like rubber to turnpike, and Julie Mintz is an attractive young lady who doesn’t overplay the role of Emma, our pseudo-heroine. These two are really responsible for carrying the brief pic, and I have no problem seeing them front a feature length picture. In truth, on a technical front, Vessel is pretty damn impressive and I don’t have many qualms with the production.
There isn’t much left to tell really (it’s now taken me a few more minutes to write this review than actually view the film), other than the fact that this is a movie you should certainly watch. I’m pleased to note that it lived up to the hype I’ve caught in the buildup to release, and I’ve got my hopes held high that the right people set eyes on this little treasure. I’d really like to see where the Duffer brothers take this unforgiving tale, and I’d love to see a sizable chunk of change invested in a full length follow through.