Jay (Clay McKendree) and Q (Josh Spiegel) have moved to a new apartment complex in Los Angeles, and something is off. For one, there seem to be a bunch of residents that look like Q (not that Q notices), and a number of other residents are mysteriously disappearing. Jay has to finish a horror script, which he hasn’t even started yet, in a week at the behest of his agent, so Jay’s stress levels are up without having to cope with any strange happenings a’transpiring. Meanwhile, Q is making the (awkward) moves on Madeline (Christy Mele), mostly oblivious to the weirdness around him.
Josh Spiegel’s The Complex is a deliberately paced sci-fi comedy, which means things move slowly, the humor is often dry or awkward and the final resolution of what’s going on in this film has to do with theoretical physics. Which is all well and good, except there’s way too much of this film where far too little really advances the story. It goes from humorous and somewhat intriguing to boring and drawn out (which I think the film is well aware of, considering the opening narration says as much, in its own way).
From a low budget, DIY standpoint, I get all the choices made. Low on resources and cast, pick one main location and find a way to use the same cast member multiple times. Make the most of what you’ve got around you, and write something that can utilize your strengths; it all makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, while I respect the cleverness and ingenuity involved in some aspects, I also don’t think the film comes together all that well.
For one, the film comes in around 100 minutes. At best, however, there’s maybe a good and tight seventy-something minute film to be had here. It just seems to meander for long periods of time as is, hoping its strange sense of humor will carry it through, and often it does, but not often enough; it can’t sustain all the way through. By the time you get the explanation of what’s going on, it’s hard to even care because the film spends so much time spinning its wheels.
Visually, the film is pretty plain. It doesn’t try anything too ambitious with its camerawork or composition; it’s more than content to just keep things in focus, which is fine. It gets the job done, and nothing more.
There were also moments of visual effects work that are pretty good (like in the minimalistic opening animation), however, particularly near the film’s climax, the cut I saw also had a few of the dreaded “media offline” errors so often seen when an editorial timeline is missing footage, or hasn’t finished rendering, before output. I’m not holding that against the filmmakers, and I’m assuming those errors won’t exist in any publicly released version of the film. I did enjoy the sometimes chiptune-friendly score, however. And the film’s sense of humor does garner a laugh or three, so it’s not like the endeavor doesn’t entertain.
Overall, though, The Complex makes the best of its resources, but that doesn’t amount to much. In an editorial sense, a complete re-working with a heavy hand could do wonders to make this feel less laborious. I did enjoy moments and elements scattered throughout, but the overall film turned out to be a chore, which is disappointing.
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