America’s penchant for vanilla, suburban housing development living has long been ripe for cinematic satire. From The Burbs to American Beauty, filmmakers have covered every cultural cul-de-sac there is in our widely accepted but now vaguely recognizable American Dream.
Even the camp-soaked The Munsters was a reminder of how we use the identity of our neighbors to define ourselves—and about the risks of moving into the wrong neighborhood.
The latest in this all-too-close-to-home thematic trope is a starkly-colorized surrealistic horror flick called Vivarium, and it’s not trying in the least to be subtle about the trappings of templated, uninspired suburbia.
If you don’t recognize a neighborhood you sell (or once did) in the film’s Yonder community, you need to be better at follow-up. “M.C. Escher architects, how can we help you?”
Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a childless young couple seemingly on the way up in the social ecosystem, looking for a new home. But the maze of green-clad, Monopoly-piece architecture soon creeps them out — and then doesn’t let them go.
And speaking of monsters, the plainly dressed listing agent is no prize, either. He happily assures the couple that they’re not looking at a starter home, but that house No. 9 “is forever.”
He does, however, bluntly ask them about children, so he’s clearly thinking about how the home will meet their future needs, which he knows more about than he lets on. The foreshadowing is about as nuanced as linoleum flooring.
Vivarium must have a great deal more psychological soot up its chimney to reveal to audiences, as the trailer makes it quite clear the couple is trapped in a bland, green-smeared hell, the prevailing color schemes serving as another brick-over-the-head shot at strict homeownership association-requirements and profit-driven, commoditized housing. You half-expect the camera to zoom out from above, revealing children playing with the couple in a metaphorical table game.
Things only get stranger when a baby is delivered — in a box. And he comes with an ominous promise: “Raise the child and be released.” But this kid is clearly more Eddy Haskel than Theodore Cleaver, growing quickly, prompting his forced-into-care foster dad Eisenberg to call him a “creepy little mutant.”
A series of dramatic jump cuts from suggest that life in Yonder is about get even more far out. Come the end, Inman readers may be excited to learn what’s in store for “the boy,” which becomes obvious only after you watch the trailer a second time.
Premiering last year the Cannes Film Festival, Vivarium currently has an 87 percent approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com. It will be released in March.
The film cuts no corners about it’s use of gothic, mid-market living as a backdrop for its message, taking the fenced-in paranoia so easily drawn from large-scale housing projects and twisting it into our psyche. It’s one part The Truman Show, two parts The Omen.
It could also be as prescient a documentary as Wall-E.
After this movie hits theaters, homeshoppers might be a little more wary about filling out your lead capture forms.
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