Uncanny (2015) / Sci Fi-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for sexual content, nudity, some violence, and language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Mark Webber, Lucy Griffiths, David Clayton Rogers, Rainn Wilson
Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Screenplay: Shahin Chandrasoma
Review published February 4, 2015
Uncanny is a low-budget indie sci-fi flick that tackles the subject of artificial intelligence, particularly in our quest to make androids that resemble humans in every possible way. The title refers to the term, "uncanny valley", through which flesh-and-blood people feel a sense of unease or revulsion to a robot or android that closely (but not quite fully) resembles a human being.
Lucy Griffiths (Winter's Tale) plays robot/tech reporter Joy Andrews, invited in by a robotics company for a week to do an interview with reclusive genius creator David Kressen (Webber, Jessabelle) and the advancements he has made in the field. Those advancements include 'Adam' (Rogers, "H+"), a nearly fully functional android who is so lifelike in his appearance and mannerisms that even an expert like Joy is fooled completely. Joy is attracted to David's amazing intelligence, and the two find themselves growing closer as they converse over several days, but their closeness is causing unusual behavior in Adam.
Uncanny is quite limited in scope, with nearly all of the events taking place in one large high-rise apartment and lab, with only four actors in the entire film. It's directed with some sense of style (though the perpetual use of lens flares is bordering on the ridiculous) from Matthew Leutwyler (Dead & Breakfast, Answers to Nothing), who manages to keep the plot moving forward without losing the audience to heady sci-fi concepts.
Written by first-time feature scripter Shahin Chandrasoma, whose expertise as a urologist does come into play in the course of the narrative, it's an ambitious work, probably deserving of a higher budget for spit and polish to bring his ideas more to life. The story does bring forth interesting concepts, though what the film can show is a bit handcuffed by the confines of the low budget. There are a few twists thrown in, which aren't really unexpected (there are a lot of tells), but it's certainly interesting in the way they develop.
Of course, those twists somewhat necessitate that Joy Andrews, for as much of an expert in the field of robotics as she claims to be, isn't a very curious one, as she seems more interested in falling in love with someone who basically is unavailable rather than doing her job on getting right down to the nitty-gritty of the specs and inner workings of her subject, which is what I would gather her readership would likely demand. The film makes her seem like she's more interested in the celebrity of industry leaders than the actual work they do.
The performances are intentionally subdued, though the film isn't really meant to be an actor's showcase so much as an interesting exploration on the impact of artificial intelligence and perhaps the danger of making our synthetic counterparts too much like us. Nevertheless, David Clayton Rogers, who plays the enigmatic Adam, is very convincing playing somewhere between human and not-so-human, selling the role without the need for over-exposition.
Uncanny isn't really a full-course science fiction flick so much as a long-form episode of an eerie anthology like "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits", so for fans of those types of shows, you might find something to enjoy in this modest futuristic twist. However, its appeal is decidedly limited to its concepts, as it is standard fare on a direct-to-video level in most other respects -- the kind of obscure oddity you stumble upon on Netflix when you've run out of big-budget science fiction flicks to watch.
©2015 Vince Leo