Benji Dunaief ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The advent of digital cinema cameras and computer editing programs over the past ten years has opened the floodgates for low budget experimental and creative filmmaking, and with it the low budget Sci-Fi genre has taken off. Suddenly, all you need is a cool location, a garden shed with a converted interior to look like a spaceship, and some CGI aliens to put together a quality Sci-Fi film. With Arrowhead, first-time Australian director Jesse O’Brien’s did just that- O’Brien scrapped together Arrowhead with just $200,000, the aid of CGI, digital cameras, some creativity, his cinematographer’s sister’s shed, and a whole lot of free time. The result is a film with very humble beginnings yet incredibly high production value. O’Brien also makes good use of camera movement and angles to help sell the realistic and professional feel of the film. Arrowhead joins a recent class of ambitious, expensive-looking Sci-Fi flicks filmed without much expense including Moon (2009), Another Earth (2011), and Love (2011), but does its plot live up to the ambition?
Arrowhead, billed as “an interstellar Jekyll and Hyde”, takes place in a galaxy rebuilding from a war waged between two generals; General Lang won the war while General Hatch (Mark Redpath) formed a rebellion. The film follows the plight of mercenary Kye Cortland (Dan Mor), who is broken out of a prison camp by General Hatch. Hatch gives Kye the opportunity to save his captured rebel-leader father from being executed by General Lang- All Kye needs to do is collect some information from a science spaceship for Hatch. However, it isn’t quite that simple, and Kye manages to accidentally crash land the ship onto a mysterious moon. At this point the established story arch is figuratively thrown into an escape pod and ejected into space.
Absolutely nothing is predictable or what is seems, and the film doesn’t seem to care about getting from point A to point B, creating an intriguing premise. Yet as Kye receives more answers about his situation and environment, the film’s tone and pace disappointingly shift aimlessly. Inserting odd bits of humor diluted moments of suspense and some poor CGI effects don’t help either. The film also strayed very far from its supposed source material of Jekyll and Hyde, instead possibly borrowing some elements that ultimately convolute the plot entirely. In the end, Arrowhead leaves the audience scratching their heads, wanting more.
The film does benefit from Dan Mor’s strong lead performance as Kye Cortland. Mor manages to delve into Kye’s stone-cold mercenary persona and allows a glimpse into the inner workings of a deeply conflicted man, however it was a shame that more of the film wasn’t devoted to his psychology. Additionally, the rest of the cast including Mark Redpath and Aleisha Rose turned in subpar performances, sometimes regurgitating lines like a table read. Fortunately, the majority of the film focused on Mor.
Arrowhead was an ambitious film by any measure- attempting to create an original story while pulling from well-known and successful source material can be treacherous work. However, the film has some flashes of impressive filmmaking, and serves as a good first-time effort from director Jesse O’Brien, hopefully marking the beginning of a promising career ahead of him.
Overall Grade: C
Check out Emertainment Monthly’s list of future screenings coming up at the 2016 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival.