Omeleto

The Atomic Spawn

By Arthur Veneema | Comedy
A scientist discovers a mysterious egg at a nuclear test site. Then it hatches...

It's 1952, and after a nuclear experiment gone away, the world around the site has become a wasteland. On a walk through the landscape mapping fallout, scientist John Nguyan discovers an egg, an "anomaly" that shouldn't have survived the blast.

John's boss then chooses John to be the test subject of a fallout shelter experiment, trapping him underground when the egg begins to hatch. In isolation, John's only companion is the strange yet endearing dragon-like creature that emerges. But when it starts growing, John's survival and career destabilize, to unexpected effect.

Written and directed by Arthur Veneema with a surprising amount of heart and humor, this quirky, nostalgic dark comedy short explores the idea of finding hope during even the most desolate times in unexpected places. The world-building and premise are undeniably dystopian, with a poisoned landscape featuring heavily in its visual imagination, and John's predicament is full of isolation and loneliness.

The film's striking visuals have a wide range, from the expansive vistas of its desert setting to the shadowy, cluttered claustrophobia of the fallout shelter. And often the sole figure in them is John, accompanied by the sound of foreboding static indicating unseen clouds of radioactivity and the slow development of what appears to be radiation sickness.

Yet it's not at all full of doom and dread. The score has a mordant cheerfulness, from the gentle atmospheric electronic melodies to the jaunty 50s pop. There's a cheeky sense of humor that pokes fun at official bureaucracy and honors the genre of old-fashioned monster films like "King Kong."

And when the egg hatches, the film tracks the affection that John has for the small creature, rendered in a design by artist Patrick Charles and brought to life by charming stop-motion animation and a chirruping, cooing sound design. Ultimately the tone is one of sweetness, especially via the sincere and sometimes befuddled regard that actor Brandon Ngo and the oddly cute little reptile have for one another. Ngo nimbly balances the quiet desolation of a forgotten, seemingly expendable man with the dry, almost deadpan humor and absurdism of the film. When pushed too far, he finally stands up for himself -- with the aid of the monster he helped nurture when survival for both seemed uncertain.

Finely crafted, engaging and bleakly witty, "The Atomic Spawn" masterfully balances tones and creative registers in a way that a Coen Brothers film fan would appreciate, though the narrative has a more gentle, rueful sweetness at its core that's appealing and fun. Ultimately, it is a story about how love and connection to even the most unexpected beings anchor us during tough times. Hope flourishes in strange ways and places. Nurtured with care and generosity, it gives John something to live for during the darkest of hours -- and offers unexpected dividends.





You Might Also Like:

Iniquity

By Oliver Goodrum | Drama
A man who bullied a disabled girl tries to escape his past. Then an angry mob finds him.

Pony

By Candice Carella | Drama
A single mother leaves her young daughter with a rock musician uncle.

Sylvia

By Richard Prendergast | Drama
A single mother takes her family on a road trip. But it's to an unwanted destination.

Second Best

By Alyssa McClelland | Comedy
Twin sisters turn into rivals when one's gymnastics career steals the spotlight.

No More Wings

By Abraham Adeyemi | Drama
2 friends meet at their favorite fried chicken shop. But their lives have diverged.

Avarya

By Gokalp Gonen | Animation
A man is trapped on a spaceship after his robot overseer finds every planet uninhabitable.

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Ernie

By Hadley Hillel | Drama
A man's suicide attempt rips a hole in the ceiling. Then he befriends the boy upstairs.

Dig Your Own Grave

By Kirk Larsen | Comedy
A man is forced to dig his own grave in the desert. But the ground is hard.

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

More Than God

By Kev Cahill | Comedy
A devoted husband suspects his wife is cheating on him. Then he hides under the bed.

Welcome to Iron Knob

By Dave Wade | Comedy
A young boy accidentally shoots a stranger and the town tries to cover it up.

CODA

By Erika Davis-Marsh | Romance
A young dancer falls for a deaf guy, then tries to find her place in the world.

Toni With an I

By Marco Alessi | Drama
An awkward girl doesn't fit in at school. Then the Internet comes to save her.

The Things You Think I'm Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.