Nerdlocker Movie Review: Vivarium





an enclosure, container, or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under semi natural conditions for observation or study or as pets; an aquarium or terrarium.

I have what is known as thalassophobia, a fear of the ocean or more broad, an intense fear of deep bodies of water. As the definition explains it’s more about what could be in the water rather than the water itself. I maintain this particular fear is perfectly normal with strong arguments in defense of it. I also acknowledge it’s no way to live and the ocean is an amazing thing everyone should experience, but no, hell no. 

I could make a list of other phobias I have but I’ll spare you the headache and get to the point and that is, however illogical or unfounded it may be, many, myself included, have a fear of domestication. To clarify I mean the whole package of marriage, kids, a mortgage, and cleaning the gutters as your asshole neighbor talks to you from the bottom of your ladder about his new lawn mower with “… three speeds!” This kind of life is fine, no judgement if what I just described sounds great to you but for me it sounds just like a 9 to 5 in a cubicle where cover sheets (points if you know the reference) are of high priority. It sounds like an unnecessarily slow, painful death. I’d rather just have a bullet rip through my head and end it all in an instant. But that’s just me. 

Vivarium explores in a Twilight Zone fashion, the pitfalls of domestic life in a suburbia compiled of the same “thing” in nearly every sense; from the clouds to the houses, to the outdoor furniture, none of it varies in the slightest. It’s all so perfectly in line the lack of imperfection that goes with natural life becomes a hot commodity much like toilet paper in the year 2020. The perfection of their new reality is enough to cause anyone a steep decline into insanity. Imperfection is needed and in Vivarium the very idea of perfection is a nightmare all its own. 

In the most innocent and innocuous way Vivarium is about a couple looking to start their life together in the form of a new home. What they fail to realize is, in a metaphorical and soon highly literal sense, suburban life can be a prison. Although at least in actual prisons there are other life forms to interact with, shiv or not. In their seemingly untouched new habitat known as Yonder this couple finds themselves not only stuck in house number nine there are no other people living in the countless other homes surrounding them. That all changes when a package arrives with nefarious instructions appearing to dictate their foreseeable future. The following is a trip into bizarro world where their newfound prison is without borders, devoid of guards, and completely lacking any kind of nuance or subtlety in its common-ness. It is bland, boring, and downright maddening. 

This is as strange as a movie really gets without being so obscure it starts feeling pretentious. The characters begin in unity and as mundanity plagues their every waking moment they start to divide on the simplest of details soon escalating to things as monumental as choices in child raising… or child murder. As their clarity becomes more convoluted so does their relationship and the deterioration of everything they hold dear is fascinating to watch. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a steadfast couple tested by an exaggerated test of domesticity and their performances must carry the film and they do so with pure acceptance of their character’s new reality. They are a tour de force breathing truth into a muddled concoction of hysteria and oddly enough, comedy. The comedy however is more about finding the humor in such a dire situation in hopes of keeping from thoughts of suicide or murder, or both. Finding the silver lining in Yonder is a feat not for the faint hearted, or the clear-minded for that matter. 

When you learn what Vivarium means and you notice the setting of this horror/comedy hybrid you begin to notice the similarities between it and that of an aquarium or glass encased terrarium, perhaps for a reptile of some kind for example. It’s a futile, haphazard attempt at recreating the characteristics of a real world complete with habitats, clouds, and mountains in hopes of providing some semblance of normalcy for whatever poor soul finds themselves trapped in such a place. However it doesn’t take long nor does it take a keen eye to realize everything about this new environment is off in nearly every conceivable way. Of course with every vivarium comes observers and in the case of Yonder and its newest inhabitants, the observers are a mystery all their own, poking and prodding in some sick attempt at a reaction for a purpose that remains shrouded in darkness. 

Vivarium can be frustrating for its lack of explanation or cathartic ending but that’s kind of the point. The iguana in your tank doesn’t understand its place in your world but it eats the food you provide it, sleeps when you say and eventually, for any number of reasons, it dies never fully understanding its existence. Those studying this couple have no intention of explaining themselves in the same way you’d feel a pointlessness in explaining anything to that damned lizard. It’s a rather gloomy viewpoint of domestic life but nonetheless entertaining as a modern day homage to The Twilight Zone.

Rated R For: language and some sexuality/nudity

Runtime: 97 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Mystery

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots

Directed By: Lorcan Finnegan

Out of 5 Nerdskulls

Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4

OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: I would say Yes. It’s not a movie I’ll watch often but one I’d like to own for those rare occasions.

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard