If you love somebody, would you take a mind-altering drug for them? Jeremiah Kipp’s effectively creepy short “The Pod” focuses on a downtown New York couple who clearly never paid heed to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign against drug usage. Tattoo artist Jonas gets possession of The Pod, a substance resembling two oversized green peas fused together. The drug is only supposed to work when taken in unison by couples seeking to deepen their spiritual connection.
Jonas’ girlfriend Caroline, however, isn’t interested in The Pod or in the downtown scene. She just received a job offer in the suburbs and wants to get away from the grungy, grotty environment around her. Jonas reluctantly agrees to move with her if she shares The Pod with him. She refuses, so Jonas ingests his part of The Pod and disappears. Caroline discovers he is absent, but through a cell phone game of tag Jonas will only come back to her if she takes The Pod. Caroline agrees, only to find herself lost in a mind-altering hallucination that turns her benign neighborhood into a grisly twilight purgatory.
Kipp, working from Carl Kelsch’s screenplay, offers a cinematic vision that is gritty and genuinely eerie. Much of the pain and confusion that Caroline’s Pod-clouded mind is experiencing is internalized via Mary Remington’s startling performance. Working almost entirely with her eyes and hands, she brilliantly essays the rush of warped visions her character is experiencing. Although there is a brief moment when Remington’s hallucinations materialize for the viewer, the true power of “The Pod” comes in watching this young woman implode into her own narcotized hell that no one else can understand.
Even more astonishing is the manner in which she essays the emotional bonds that shackle her to her boyfriend, played by the photogenic Emanuele Ancorini. He is clearly the wrong man for her, yet Remington’s subtle acting provides a heartbreaking sample of a smart woman who devotes herself to the very worst man possible. (Pay close attention to the his-and-her chain tattoos that wrap around their necks – that’s probably the most brilliant sight gag put on camera this year).
Fans of movie chillers will also enjoy the guest appearance by Larry Fessenden as the Pod dealer. Fessenden, best known for directing “Habit” and “Wendigo” and starring in “Habit,” performs a nice bit of larceny in stealing his scenes with a joyful wash of menace. He is a wonderfully off-kilter presence that fits perfectly in Kipp’s impressively disturbing production.