A big hint to this dark film is the title. Vivarium is described as,
an enclosure, container, or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under semi-natural conditions for observation or study or as pets.Oxford Dictionary
Young couple, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), enter a real estate office to look at residential developments in the area. The estate agent, Martin, is strange to say the least and is peddling houses in a new development called Yonder. Against their better judgement, they follow him to Yonder, where the entry billboard states – your ‘Forever’ home.
The Yonder houses are identical in every way. The streets are silent, empty and otherworldly; the clouds even look painted on, reminiscent of the final scenes of The Truman Show. Martin shows the couple through house number nine, then mysteriously vanishes. Feeling completely creeped out by the experience, Gemma and Tom hightail it out of there. Every which way they drive, they are unwittingly returned to the same street and the same house number nine. Even when the car runs out of petrol, it conveniently comes to a halt outside house number nine. Now, well into the evening, they have no choice but to stay the night.
The next morning brings no further answers. Tom climbs to the roof for a vantage point to see a way out, but a sea of identical Yonder houses is chillingly-revealed reaching all the way to the horizon. Their next hope is to follow the setting sun to find whatever is beyond Yonder; however their day of trekking only leads them back to house number nine.
Waiting for them is a delivery box filled with prepacked food. A furious Tom sets house number nine ablaze, hoping to attract attention. Tired and deflated, they fall to sleep kerbside. When they wake, there is another delivery box. This time, inside is an infant boy with instructions: ‘raise the child and be released.’
Begrudgingly, they do. However, the child is like no other. After only two months, the infant has rapidly grown to the size of a seven-year-old boy, and is a terror. To escape, Tom takes any opportunity to be out of the house. While sitting out one afternoon, he discovers the soil is made from a seemingly artificial substance. He starts to dig a hole, and digs and digs and digs. What is he hoping to achieve? After what seems days of digging, with his health showing signs of weakening, he hears noises at the bottom of the hole. On further exploration, what he finds will inevitably become his own fate.
The film has been described as science-fiction, thriller, horror and Twilight-Zone-esque in its quiet delivery of suspense. To this watcher, it was a bleak capsule view on human existence: we are born, we grow, we attempt to carve out a good life and deal with what life throws our way, we propagate, then we die; replaced by another wave of youth to start the cycle all over again.
Vivarium is available now on TelstraTV, Google Play, iTunes, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment. Foxtel on Demand from 6 May 2020.
Directed by: Lorcan Finnegan
Written by: Garret Shanley
Stars: Imogen Poots, Danielle Ryan, Molly McCann, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris
Running Time: 1h 37m