Watched District 9 yesterday, a film about the segregation and attempted eviction of aliens who have landed above Johannesburg but cannot leave of their own accord. It’s brilliant and definitely worth a watch. Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by debutante Neill Blomkamp, it’s full of exploding bodies and flying goo which, having seen Jackson’s zombie masterpiece Braindead I was expecting and, indeed, actively looking forward to.
What caught me completely off-guard, though, and what made me feel a little squeamish on behalf of the friends who were watching the film with me (who to my knowledge are less than hardened gorehounds) was the deep debt to David Cronenberg and his trademark body horror.
I don’t think I’m giving too much of the plot away – no more than other reviews, anyway – if I say that the main character becomes infected with a liquid that causes one of his arms to transmogrify into that of an alien. He’s captured by the multinational corporation he works for and, such is his potential value as a source of bioweaponry, treated to the most cold-blooded attempts to decode and extract the source of the change.
The faux documentary style of the filming, with hand-held and security camera footage, makes it feel ten times more realistic and therefore gruelling, as drills, cattle prods and surgical close-ups are all used to good (or bad, as you please) effect. We see body parts falling off in horrible detail and, thanks to the completely convincing turn from the film’s lead, we feel the full psychological torture inflicted as well.
All of this, especially when combined with the superbly realised gritty and hellish slum-like setting, had the slightly unwelcome effect of making the film seem longer than it was – upon checking just now I was amazed to find the running time to be under two hours. Again, I’m not revealing any secrets not covered elsewhere by saying that things are very much left open for a sequel, which I will absolutely be watching. I’ll just be better prepared!