Back in 1959, Rod Serling introduced a television show that would take the world by storm and hold our imaginations even to this day. The Twilight Zone captivated audiences with stories of suspense that sometimes dabbled in fantasy or science fiction, but were always engaging and held deeper moral questions for the audience to ponder.
Writer/director Eron Sheean’s Errors Of The Human Body (out April 19 in select theatres and via cable and digital VOD from IFC Midnight) owes a lot to the Twilight Zone formula of story telling. It is not a horror film as we have come to understand them in the past thirty years or so. The film is more unnerving than frightening, and takes the audience on a journey into the slow degradation of a person’s psyche as their life slowly unravels around them.
Geoff Burton (Michael Eklund) is an American geneticist who has devoted himself to unraveling the mystery of a genetic mutation that led to the death of his newborn son. One of Geoff’s former interns, Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth) invites him to a scientific research facility in Dresden believing his work could help her with a new discovery of hers. Upon arrival Geoff meets with the director of the facility, Samuel (Rik Mayall) and one of Rebekka’s colleagues, Jarek (Tómas Lemarquis) before Rebekka reveals to him her discovery, the Easter Gene, a genetic mutation that leads to rapid cell recovery in reptiles. However, as Rebekka’s stories seem to contradict each other, and Jarek’s motives air on the side of unethical, Geoff starts to suspect more sinister motives.
Errors Of The Human Body marks Eron Sheean’s first venture into feature length filmmaking. The script, penned by Sheean and Shane Danielsen, is constructed of multiple layers with both visual and spoken metaphor that demands repeat viewings to get a full experience. The film’s theme is one of ethics and humanity in the face of scientific discovery, proposed beautifully in an early scene. While eating lunch in the cafeteria at the institute, Geoff sits down with one of his fellow colleagues, who is in the process of assembling the bones of the fish he is eating. When he notices Geoff watching him, he says that humanity never wants to know the truth; whether it is about how the fish they are eating died, or how the cure for a disease is found. “People want the cure, but not the research. It makes them uncomfortable knowing how you got there, what you had to do, and to what.”
Sheean’s story is quite perfectly captured by cinematographer Anna Howard. The film does not rely on any tricks or wild framing due to the rather subdued nature of its characters and settings. The relatively still framing that accompanies the flat grey and blue coloring Howard and washes over Geoff’s world truly gives a sense of how little Geoff has moved forward in a life he has sterilized for himself. Mix these visuals with the moody, atmospheric, and sparsely used music provided by Anthony Pateras and the film perfectly conveys a sense of dreadful emptiness that it’s protagonist lives with.
Michael Eklund and Tómas Lemarquis both give equally stellar and haunting performances as Geoff and Jarek. Eklund’s portrayal of an emotionally and psychologically damaged Geoff makes him a treat to watch as he turns his inner-hatred against Jarek for being just a little too much like Geoff himself. Jarek’s character and intentions are left just enough in the shadows, hidden away in the institute’s “mouse house,” to make him creepy but it is Lemarquis’s performance that really helps him turn that corner to unlikeable as the film progresses.
Errors Of The Human Body might have all the pieces capable of being on par with many of the great stories that came out of The Twilight Zone, but it holds an ending and an ironic twist to it that would make even Rod Serling uncomfortable. To reveal this here would be a discredit to both the film and the viewer, and is truly best enjoyed the way it is meant to be. Everyone involved has come together to make something striking and memorable. If this is the kind of work that can be expected of Sheean, his next film will be one to look forward to.
– By Matt Delhauer