Stars: Daniel MacPherson, Grace Huang, Luke Hemsworth, Bren Foster, Luke Ford, Dwaine Stevenson, Louisa Mignone, Tess Haubrich and Kevin Copeland.
Writers: Shane Abbess and Brian Cachia.
Director: Shane Abbess.
Watch the trailer here.
When a director draws upon so many genre reference points as Shane Abbess does in his coarse, shrill sci-fi shocker Infini, there needs to be somewhere in the mix a bolt of blazing originality that sets his work apart from its inspirations.
Set ostensibly on an ‘off-world mining colony’, Abbess’ story (from an idea hatched with his music composer, Brian Cachia) focuses on an elite military unite sent on a search-and-rescue mission when all contact is lost with a deep-space outpost. Title-cards spend unnecessary time explaining ‘slipstreaming’, the process of data-encrypting living tissue so that long-distance interstellar travel becomes possible. It is how tough-talking grunts of the future undertake deployment, foregoing hyper-sleep (and providing a meagre point of difference from James Cameron’s Aliens).
Finding a corpse-strewn maze of steely corridors and abandoned workstations (echoing John Carpenter’s The Thing, both narratively and visually), the unit stumble upon lone survivor Whit Carmichael (Oz TV staple Daniel MacPherson), only to realise that whatever caused the population to off themselves in horrible ways still infects the site. Systematically, each soldier descends into an infectious delirium that manifest in bouts of loud, rage-filled histrionics followed by gruesome expiration (in effect, Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon with a little Resident Evil flavour when required).
Abbess rocked the local film world in 2007 with his warrior-angel thriller, Gabriel. A lean genre work shot on a shoestring (nabbed by Sony Pictures for the world market), it was a vision that nodded a lot to such films as Gregory Widen’s Prophecy and Alex Proyos’ The Crow but brought with it a compelling style, cool leading man in the late Andy Whitfield and slick narrative that lifted it beyond its conventions.
His return to the local low-end budget/high-end production milieu he previously tapped so well is a frustrating disappointment. While his intention may have been to construct a psychological thriller that thematically employs the lonely, disassociated setting and his characters’ yearning for human connection, the overuse of long, talky scenes that call upon one-dimensional military stereotypes to wallow in pop-psych emoting never hits a convincing note. An ok MacPherson is drawn into a series of interminable yelling matches with his co-stars as they succumb to the airborne alien madness; one such encounter, with two-time AACTA Award winner Luke Ford no less, plays like an improv acting class exercise.
Script and storytelling shortcomings aside, it is the overarching familiarity of Abbess’ visual cues that derails his ambition. As our hero contemplates his lot in life while taking in the future world cityscape from his apartment balcony, the savvy sci-fi viewer will recall it is a near-exact rendering of the same scene from Len Wiseman’s recent Total Recall remake. The cooling vents and steam jets of the mining colony are pure Ridley Scott/James Cameron; the planetary surface and external structures of the mining outpost resoundingly echo LV426. So reminiscent of and reliant upon Aliens is Infini, the very definition of ‘homage’ is put to the test.
Some narrative freshness emerges in a third act that posits Infini as a type of ‘…Body Snatchers’ clone; the same developments, however, also recall (one assumes unintentionally) Ghostbusters 2. But, at an unforgivably lengthy 110 minutes, patience and tolerance for the director’s indulgences have worn thin. Abbess is clearly a technically gifted filmmaker, able to conjure impressive visuals, but Infini suggests the services of an experienced script editor and a purging of his DVD collection should be high priorities.