A reclusive elderly engineer is holed up in his run-down apartment, conducting experiments with his strange, extraordinary invention: a machine that can transfer consciousness from one creature to another. The outside world is violent, with gangs breaking into homes. But inside the man's home, it is equally strange in its way, especially as the old man coughs up blood into his hand after an experiment fails.
When his young deaf woman moves in next door, the engineer strikes up a friendly rapport with her. But that interaction is interrupted when a violent gang breaks in, leading to the ultimate test for the engineer.
Written and directed by Eric Jungmann (who also plays the role of the gang leader), this short sci-fi horror film turns the adrenaline on right away, introducing an explosive mix of narrative elements at the top of the film. It then weaves these together with kinetic, pulse-pounding action-oriented filmmaking and some vividly rendered moments of body horror to create an unforgettable thriller-like experience.
The film isn't for the squeamish, but it leverages undeniably accomplished craft to immerse viewers quickly and intensely into its world. The lighting and color palette emphasizes a dingy, careworn world not so different from our own, and memorable, quirky choices in even the costumes and production design have a specificity that shows an unusual level of thoughtfulness for the genre. The performances too have a mix of understated precision for the main characters and stylized flair for the villains, but the styles work together to both ground us emotionally while building a world of slightly surreal lawlessness.
The sound design plays a heightened role in the film, putting us in the unique headspace of a few of its key characters and creating moments of tension. It also makes for a richer, more provocative conclusion -- after we get through the bloody, suspenseful climax, which features weapons, guns and some spectacular and explosive special effects.
Compelling, pulse-pounding and gripping from beginning to end, "Body of the Mined" has the great trick of offering a feature's worth of energy, action and terror in a short film format. But it also has enough world-building and vision for a longer narrative to explore its more tantalizing mysteries and questions. And as the film ends on a quieter, more character-centered note, it prompts questions about identity, its relationship to our corporeal selves and whether those bodily markers are limitations to transcend or parameters to be guided by. As we watch one character wander off from the aftermath, we can't help but wonder who it is, if it is the same person or if it's a new person altogether. Such questions merit a longer, more sustained story, but even the shorter version gives us plenty to mull over after we've recovered from the ending.