Late last night I sat down with my third or fourth glass of wine to watch Errors of the Human Body. The trailer had painted the film as a slow-burn sci-fi, heavy on visuals, and I anticipated it would be sparse on plot. I figured a little inebriation would be a nice complement to my viewing experience. Yet, as the film played on, I experienced a mixture of enthrallment and frustration as I focused as hard as I could not to miss a thing. There was so much more happening than I had expected and, if I wasn’t mistaken, it was all wonderful. It ended, and I retired to bed. Immediately upon waking this morning, I rushed back to my television and pressed play again, now sober and fully alert. I needed to be sure. And I was right: this movie is awesome.
If someone told me this film was directed by the spawn of David Cronenberg, I wouldn’t question it for a second. In fact, I’d probably reply with: “Duh.” It’s got the atmosphere and style of some of Cronenberg’s earliest features, especially Crimes of the Future. There’s a specific aesthetic, a sort of dry, static terror, like a stillness during which you know that just under the surface, there are cancer cells growing, replicating, and poisoning everything. It is the heart of that early body-horror, and director Eron Sheean has captured it and inoculated his film with this fantastic disease.
Errors of the Human Body follows Dr. Geoff Burton, who has been summoned to a scientific institute in Dresden, Germany to continue his research on genetic engineering and disease and offer guidance to the institute’s team of scientists. Burton’s previous work has been focused on an extremely rare genetic mutation known as Burton’s disease, which claimed the life of his newborn son years earlier. In Dresden, Geoff is caught between two rival scientists– both of whom claim they have made an incredible discovery which could lead to human regeneration. But as Geoff begins to suspect one of them is being deceitful, old wounds are opened.
Michael Eklund gives an excellently subtle performance, channeling the perfect amount of wounded ex-husband, struggling scientist, and utter asshole into the introverted Dr. Geoff Burton. I especially enjoyed the way he mutters hilarious throw-aways under his breath, mocking the broken English of the German characters surrounding him. These scattered bits of humor are delightful and tonally brilliant.
“A New Brave World? Haven’t read that one.”
Despite the story being confined to the institute in Dresden, Geoff’s memories of his lost child and failed marriage bleed into the film, interspersed through the narrative in a way that allows the viewer to experience them as Geoff is remembering them. They are a part of the present for Geoff, and therefore a part of the present for the audience. These non-traditional flashbacks round him out, and are incredibly effective as a method of generating sympathy for his character. It’s stimulating and creative.
Underneath all the complex theorizing and scientific discussion, the core of Errors of the Human Body is actually quite simple and straightforward. I kept waiting for it to get out of my grasp, which sometimes happens with hard sci-fi, but it never does. It maintains a flawless balance between being an intellectual science fiction and a verging-on-camp thriller. It’s exciting and suspenseful, and really fun. Squek?
Errors of the Human Body is currently available in select theaters, and to watch on Cable VOD, SundanceNOW and other digital outlets. Check back on YWC tomorrow for a short interview with director Eron Sheean.