It is always wonderful to see people who clearly love what they are doing. What this short lacks in production value it makes up for with heart. There is an old fashioned “Let’s put on a show” attitude at play here with no trace of cynical irony or crass pandering. It instead has an infectious sense of dark fun.
Emotical centers on a group of soldiers facing an unknown enemy. They are clearly outnumbered and outgunned. They are trapped in an office surrounded by creatures who we (the audience) know nothing about. They have to figure out a way to escape the enemy and their own interpersonal problems. It is a tense, almost claustrophobic drama.
“…centers on a group of soldiers facing an unknown enemy. They are clearly outnumbered and outgunned.”
The filmmakers avoid two common pitfalls in this early offering:
1) Unlike a lot of genre films, they don’t overload us with information. We don’t get hours of backstory explaining the enemy and how they came into conflict with our heroes. Instead, we’re thrown into the middle of the action, and the filmmakers just trust that we will be able to keep up.
2) They also don’t steamroll us with a bunch of technobabble. Instead, it is used sparingly and delicately. They keep it to a minimum and make sure it makes sense to the story.
Emotical is not without its flaws. I won’t dwell on the low-budget effects or a few instances of sloppy camera work. The problem is in the bones of the piece or (less metaphorically) the script. A good chunk is dedicated to a love triangle. Eric abused Britney, so she leaves him for Justin. Bad enough, but they decide to hash out these problems while surrounded by the enemy. The whole confrontation scene feels like it goes on too long and dominates the narrative. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this really the time and place for this conversation” and “Why is their captain letting them go on and on?” That, unfortunately, took me out of the story.
“…the weird thing about the ambiguity of the piece is that it worked.”
I can’t help it; I have to get a little preachy here. (Grabs soap box) I love that Emotical was made by young people of color. I love it! Sci-Fi has been a white-dominated genre since movies were invented. And here we have more proof that POC Sci-Fi fans exist. Yes, I know, things are changing. We are seeing more diverse people in front of and behind the camera. But, I still can’t help but be a little happy when I see it. Particularly from young talented people just starting out. It makes this old brown geek genuinely giddy. (Puts away soapbox)
In the end, Emotical feels a bit like a sizzle reel. We don’t know anything about the mysterious enemy. We don’t know why our heroes are afraid of getting “collared.” And we don’t know the outcome of a twist that I won’t ruin for you. But the weird thing about the ambiguity of the piece is that it worked. I want to know more. I want to see the next chapter. And I hope it comes along soon.
Emotical (2018) Directed by Ellis Fowler and Matt Lorenzo. Written by Ellis Fowler and John F. Thomas. Starring Ellis Fowler, Omari Washington, Zaria Simone, John F. Thomas
7 out of 10