Revisionist horror in Blomkamp’s ‘Firebase’
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Steve Boyle, Nicole Goliath, Robert Hobbs, Tyler Johnston, Nic Rhind, Carlo Yu
From Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie) comes a stunning hybrid of horror, war, and supernatural terror that bears all the trademarks of the director’s riveting and slick style–Firebase, another gripping cinematic experience from Oats Studios. This 26-minute short film revises the history of the Vietnam War through a paranormal entity stalking American soldiers in the dense jungles of Southeast Asia. As the war rages on (often shown in quick, jarring cuts of “found footage”), audiences learn of a mysterious, powerful creature that Sergeant Hines (Steve Boyle), CIA operative Jacob Palmer (Nic Rind), and other characters refer to as the “River God.” This supernatural being uses telekinesis to control military aircraft and American soldiers alike. In order to learn more about this destructive enemy force, Hines and Palmer pay a visit to Sergeant Bracken (Tyler Johnston), a young GI who endured a terrifying ordeal with the River God and survived to tell the tale. Suffering from horrific burns and other injuries, Bracken relays the story of what occurred at Firebase Tarheel, where he and his unit were targeted by Vietnamese soldiers and fell victim to the wrath of the River God. What unfolds is a horror trip involving bloodshed, a skeletal creature with a genuinely captivating backstory, time travel, and other science fiction elements. The backstory, in particular, is captured evocatively by cinematographer Mannie Ferreira in an important scene that finds actor Carlo Yu absolutely simmering with raw intensity.
Firebase shows director Blomkamp (who co-wrote the script with Thomas Sweterlitsch) firing on all cylinders, with every sequence depicting something interesting, morbid, horrifying, or psychologically complex. The film never lets up, even in its dialogue-heavy scenes in which Hines and Palmer discuss the River God and whether or not the actual devil has infiltrated the savage battle of the Vietnam War. As mentioned, many of the scenes take on the appearance of genuine newsreel footage from the time period, which adds a powerful and chilling touch to the film. Actors Boyle and Rhind are exceptional as their conversations smolder with grim potency, but it is Johnston who really shines. As a critical narrator of Firebase, he holds the rapt attention of the audience as he delivers the maddening tale of what went down at Firebase Tarheel. In addition to the stellar performances, the special effects are downright gory–you’ll see flesh peeled back over bone, strange objects being removed from corpses, reanimated soldiers, and human beings with skin burning away from their bodies. In other words, the film is a thrill to watch. It is 26 minutes of action-packed mayhem and the occasional philosophical insight into the nature of both revenge and survival.
Merging several genres into one, Blomkamp’s Firebase succeeds at a level that many of this summer’s theater releases could only aspire to. While audiences eagerly await the director’s next full-length feature, they should head on over to the Oats Studios YouTube channel for tons of incredible content.
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