Kate is a young woman with a strange skin affliction, with a spot on her wrist beginning to itch and turn red. As the raw wound begins to fester, she discovers that a USB port has grown inside of her.
Curious about her new appendage, she plugs into it and discovers a netherworld filled with memory and knowledge. She soon realizes that she can change and improve herself rapidly, not to mention delete unwanted parts of her past. Enabled by her new organ, she plugs into all kinds of skills and information and changes herself in ways she never could imagine. But that ease and rapidity come at a considerable cost.
Directed by David Yorke from a script co-written with lead actor Elena Saurel this coolly cerebral, fascinating sci-fi horror short leverages its meticulous craftsmanship to bring new meaning to the term “plugged in.” Its premise literalizes constant connection to the Internet and all its utopian promises, as well its empty allure.
The storytelling seems minimal on the surface, with few lines of dialogue and little information about the character or setting. Instead, the film’s opening images focus on the arrival of the USB port in Kate’s wrist, starting as an irritation as she goes about her life. But with quick economy, it progresses into something much more serious and surreal, as Kate discovers the USB port growing in the underside of her forearm.
The striking images do much of the heavy lifting in terms of keeping viewers intrigued and fascinating, alternating between cool and crisp evocations of Kate’s mind space and the gruesome distortions of flesh as she deals with the port within her. The visuals are both alienating and hypnotic, contrasting the warm but shadowy environs of Kate’s real life with the dark emptiness of the place she goes when she’s “plugged in.”
Many evocations of “Internet consciousness” veer towards the bright and busy, but the film keeps its portrayal of Kate’s inner subjectivity very spare, with just a door and some file cabinets. Actor Elena Saurel also keeps her performance spare but evocative, tracing how Kate slowly discovers the link between this new realm and her waking life. But using that link takes her down a perilous path — one that exacts a serious toll.
Combining philosophical inquiry with a squirm-inducing penchant for body horror that would appeal to any David Cronenberg fan, “Eject” is notable for its focus on this particular moment in Kate’s life, but the thoughtful yet visceral storytelling may give rise to many more questions. Why did Kate grow a USB port? Is this phenomenon a contagion? And how did it happen in the first place? Such broader questions would be great ballast for a larger project, but the short still teases the philosophical implications of our constant need to be connected.
Kate’s home and activities have subtle clues, revealing her to be a woman engaged in learning and challenging herself. But the onset of her USB port’s appearance chains her to her electronics, as she spends more energy in her netherworld. Though they’re heightened with an almost Grand Guignol level of shock and horror, the film’s final images touch upon how that choice can transform us, when we turn our electronic connections into our lifelines at the expense of actual life.