Lex (Saabeah Theos) takes her new boyfriend Dru (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) to meet her brother Leo (Julian Mack), whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. A genius programmer, Leo is a recluse with a borderline alcohol addiction and an aversion to meeting strangers. Upon arriving at his flat, Lex and Dru discover that Leo has been working on a computer virus called DAISY. Dru soon becomes tired of being sidelined as Lex and Leo reconnect, but when he tries to leave DAISY locks them all inside the flat forcing them to work together to try and figure out a way to escape.
CTRL is part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2018’s First Blood strand, which showcases first-time feature film directors. Written and directed by Harry Lindley, and based on a story by Lindley and his lead star Julian Mack (who also is a producer on the film), CTRL is an ambitious debut effort that is full of ideas and features three very captivating performances. What the film does very well is gently tease you into the set-up. It becomes clear to Dru that he perhaps doesn’t know his new girlfriend all that well and it’s revealed early on that Lex and Dru aren’t biological siblings, something that comes as a surprise to Dru.
The tension quickly rises as Dru and Leo fail to find common ground. Dru is seemingly frustrated by the situation he’s been thrown into while Leo is too distracted with DAISY and catching up with Lex to pay him any attention. Once the trio realises that they can’t get out of the flat, and it’s unlikely anyone will be coming to help them, the situation goes from bad to worse as the true power of DAISY is unveiled.
For me, this is where the film could have done with a little more spit and polish. CTRL seems to be commenting on the way society has become disconnected due to the interference of technology forcing us apart but it also features quite a lot of biblical allegories. This is where I could have done with a little more of a cohesive storyline to explain what’s actually going on. DAISY is able to conjure things up, like insects and corrosive substances, but there’s no real explanation as to why a computer virus is able to do these things. It’s by no means a huge sticking point but it did leave me wishing there was a little more context around the film’s main threat.
On the plus side Julian Mack, Saabeah Theos and Hainsley Lloyd Bennett are fantastic. Mack steals the show as the eccentric Leo and he delivers a performance that veers from manic to menacing. I believed his portrayal of Leo and I was quite captivated by him. Theos and Bennett are very good too, fostering believable chemistry and showing their versatile as the material gets darker. There’s something quite magnetic about the three actors when they’re on screen together and they are the strongest part of the film.
Credit must also go to Lindley’s screenplay and direction. While I do feel the screenplay could have done a little more to explain the plot, the dialogue between the characters is solid. Lex and Leo share a little banter, as siblings do, and Dru isn’t backwards in coming forwards when he starts to feel uncomfortable. Lindley’s direction is excellent. He shows a keen eye for detail and he draws the most out of every single shot. The performances of his actors is testament to his skill at getting the best out of them.
CTRL may have some issues but for a feature film debut, it’s a bold and ambitious piece of work from Lindley. You wouldn’t know it had been made on a small budget as the production values are top notch and the stellar cast elevates the film. Lindley shows incredible promise with this sci-fi/thriller hybrid and I’m already excited to see what he does next.
Cast: Julian Mack, Saabeah Theos, Hainsley Lloyd Bennett, Mia Foo Director: Harry Lindley Writer: Harry Lindley Certificate: TBC Duration: 80 mins Released by: Wanderland Productions