Eron Sheean’s directorial debut, Errors Of The Human Body, which he co-scripted with Shane Danielsen, is a stark, atmospheric thriller with a generous helping of body horror with a medical bent that puts it in similar territory with the recent debut from Cronenberg Jr, Antivirial.
Set in Dresden and shot, for the most part, in a real medical research facility, it follows the tortured crusade by grieving geneticist Geoff Burton (a compelling turn by Michael Eklund) who is hell bent on discovering the cure for a rare mutation that caused the death of his infant son, and resulted in the collapse of his marriage.
Drawn to Germany ostensibly by director Samuel Mead (a rare straight role for an almost unrecognizable Rik Mayall) he aids former intern and one-time lover Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth) with her research into the ‘Easter gene,’ which may or may not hold the key to rapid limb regeneration in humans.
Thrown into the mix is a jealous, immoral and quite unhinged colleague, the creepy Jarek (Tómas Lemarquis) who has his own designs on cracking the code and securing the glory. The latter relishes his ambiguously menacing role, and the rivalry between him and Rebekka is all the more interesting becasue the viewer’s unsure who’s telling the truth.
Shot in the bleak midwinter, there’s an overwhelmingly chilly look to the film, both indoors and out, that matches the moral quandaries of scientific exploration at the very edges of genetic manipulation, and the very personal breakdown experienced by Geoff.
The slow pace is a bit of an ask at times, making the 100 minutes feel a tad longer than need be, but it does succeed in ratcheting up the suspense and the overwhelming feeling of unease as the surreal and almost trippy final act kicks into gear, and the audience finally begins to realise what’s actually happening in the bowels of the research facility.
The visuals and the make up effects are fantastic when the mad scientist stuff comes to the forefront. Taking an almost Lynchian approach in the dénouement, with a dreamlike room that also conjures up images of Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining, there are promising sings here that both Sheehan and Eklund are ones to watch, even if Errors Of The Human Body isn’t quite as tight as it could have been.
Stephen A Russell