- Gareth Crook
Little Joe (2019)
A world of laboratories and genetically enhanced mood altering plants, engineered to make people happy. We’re in cold sterile sci-fi territory here, the whole thing designed to be chilling. Maybe too chilling, too cool, too low key. Unusual camera work. Slow tracking shots, uncomfortably cropped, actors drifting out of frame. There’s a vibe of Coma or Scanners, 70s sci-fi horror, that unnerving danger that lurks beneath the clean surface. The plants designed to have positive traits, it fast becomes clear have anything but. As Little Joe (the new species of plant) grows, it displays troubling characteristics. Hostile. It could err on the side of Little Shop of Horrors without the songs, but in fact there’s very little in the way of sound for much of the film. Sparse dialogue and zero fun. A seemingly barren modern world defined only by footsteps, doors closing, key pads beeping. That is until the plants take centre stage, when a mix of sensual wind instruments and haunting percussion takes over the score. Even then, the plants are subtle hunters. Things get increasingly eerie as the plants infect the lab workers, in a super slow burn simple premise, leisurely brought to screen. It’s cast is odd quite frankly and not that great... aside Ben Whishaw who’s always great and Emily Beecham, who though not quite as gripping, carries the lead role well enough. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you like bleak mysterious drama, Little Joe is fertile ground.