It’s the summer of 1929 and an eclectic group of bright young things assemble on the frontier of North America. After inventing the car stereo they are ready to begin a 2-month expedition into remote woodlands. However, there is no welcome party and the mysterious professor Keating has gone missing.
It doesn’t take long for our posse of Ivy League botanists to grasp they are locked in the crosshairs of a ruthlessly annihilatory ecosystem. They must pool their precocious intellects, and merge their diverse skill sets if they are to survive a terrifying anemophilous attack that would have left Darwin soiling his naturally selective draws.
Replacing the usual cliched gaggle of moronic forest fodder with a party of educationally privileged hipsters is an intrepid move. Dropping them into a cell phone cleansed, period piece survivalist horror is even riskier. Nevertheless, the rewards are bountiful in this subtly cerebral low-fi science fiction horror gem.
Advancements in botanical knowledge, both from a molecular perspective and the more expansive understanding of global ecology, were at their most exciting in the late 1920’s and Flora exploits this supposition to the full.
As the true complexity of their desperate plight dawns upon them, our colourful and highly likeable crew are forced to extract the logic from ecological and thus engage with the furthest known parameters of this budding scientific field. It’s this methodology that allows Flora to bury its artful hooks deep into the viewer as well as driving the refreshingly original narrative forward with empathetic conviction.
Nurtured by a satisfyingly airtight screenplay and heartened by invigorating blasts of pragmatic character development Flora manages to engineer some truly immersive set pieces without tearing the fabric of its overall rationale.
The film was put together with just $100,000 by a crew of 13 (including actors) over a period of two and a half years. As a consequence, the project could easily have become the victim of too much time, not enough money syndrome. But in this case, the filmmakers have avoided the twin traps of imprisoning us in a sterile budget bubble and over oiling the cinematic cogs.
Wisely, Flora keeps things super-tight by unfolding over a slender week long time frame. The locations are as expertly chosen as they are economically frequented and the conflict is evenly distributed over the run time which ensures everything remains fluid and intriguing. Add to this a symbiotic amalgam of Composer Nathan Prillaman’s accomplished score alongside era accurate music and dialogue and we are firmly cemented in the bedrock of 1929.
That said, because of an environmentally restrictive subunit of the plot, the film is compelled to deploy certain isolation tactics. However, these machinations are stunningly realised by Sound Designer Anne-Marie Ront and fastidious VFX footage correction, and they transcend circumscription to become taut strands of the film’s genetic structure.
Another major asset is the handsome cinematography from Eric Irvin. A combination of natural light, coactive lenses and filters, harmonious palettes and a drone bourne Gopro leave Flora basking gloriously in its own budgetary denial.
There is no doubt that Flora acts as a meticulous homage to the bravery of the explorer and the hard decisions required to cauterise the wounds ripped open by extreme adversity. But ultimately, it’s about the stark realisation that acutely altruistic choices are often wrapped in the barbarous razor wire of self-sacrifice.
Destined to enjoy a divisive reception on the festival circuit this pristine botanical brain-teaser could well split genre fans.
Some will be elated that director Sasha Louis Vukovic has discovered an unhacked path through the woodland survival picture, others will be appalled by the paucity of graphic machete kills.
SCI-FI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2017 runs from 27 April – 6 May https://sci-fi-london.com/
Adventure, Horror, History, Sci- Fi | Canada, 2017 | 105 mins | Pulp Pictures |Sci-Fi London Film Festival World Premiere 29th April. 2017 | Dir. Sasha Louis Vukovic| Cast. Sari Mercer, Teresa Marie Doran, Miles G. Jackson