After losing his jobs, an unstable man goes into a spiral of depression. His doctor gives him some pills to treat his condition, though they’re “not quite FDA approved yet.”
But after taking the pills, he begins seeing things: he sees people as horrendous monsters, creatures that control the world from the shadows and stay hidden by people’s own blindness and apathy.
Are they hallucinations, or is he merely seeing what’s been there the entire time? His girlfriend Ellen tries to bring him back to normalcy, but she can’t stop him from seeing the world as full of these monsters. He begins seeing them everyone, and convinced that they’re controlling the world, drives himself to almost calamitous action.
Writer-director Ruairi Robinson’s thriller is a masterfully crafted piece of psychological suspense, adept at both getting us inside the head of its troubled hero and pulling audiences along with tautly constructed chills and thrills.
The plot hits familiar tropes of sci-fi and horror genres — and many horror fans will see echoes of John Carpenter’s “They Live” here — but Robinson has a gift for generating atmosphere and building character without sacrificing dramatic tension. It’s anchored by smart, solid performances, including one by actor Jenna Coleman (currently starring as the titular queen on acclaimed series “Victoria”) as the girlfriend balancing concern for her troubled boyfriend with a growing concern for her own safety.
A sharp eye for ironic, clever detail — thanks to collaborator Macgregor, who co-directed Omeleto fave “Los Angeles 1991” — guides each frame. Deft editing and pacing keep the story propelling forward on the fumes of paranoia, guided with charting the main character’s growing instability and alternating between personal character moments and terrific action pieces.
Along with Carpenter, “Corporate Monster” has a look and feel that owes a debt to the great, gritty 80s urban sci-fi films, full of stories that saw urban settings teeming with danger and catastrophe. But with its paranoia that a small wealthy, powerful elite controls the world and corporate dominance has seeped into the most intimate, personal levels of human existence, its worldview is firmly of our times. Though the short is a superb piece of entertainment — and begs for an expansion into a feature — it gives voice and shape to the fractious, troubled undercurrents of today’s social anxiety. Maybe there aren’t literal monsters in today’s world, the film seems to say — but underneath the seamy underbelly of it all lies the same monstrous venality, greed and inhumanity.