In the brilliantly original and quirky sci-fi mystery VIVARIUM, a young couple (The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg and Green Room’s Imogen Poots) take an eerie trip into a suburban Twilight Zone, while looking for a starter home. A peculiar estate agent takes them to look at a new development called Yonder, where nothing is quite what it seems. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of living in a place like Yonder, and some of cinema’s other curious communities. From seemingly idyllic communes to purpose-built utopian towns – which one would you choose to settle down in?
What’s it like? Estate agent Martin encourages Tom and Jen to think about buying a place in ‘Yonder’, made up of rows and rows of identical, neatly planned starter homes, as far as the eye can see.
Pros: Yonder is just the ticket for a couple planning on starting a family. You don’t have to waste time choosing a house as they are all the same, and fully furnished. And it even comes with a baby for you to look after.
Cons: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you didn’t like Yonder. Say you found the estate agent, Martin, a little bit too odd, and the houses a bit too samey and clinical. You’d want to leave, wouldn’t you. Well go ahead, try. We dare you…
Stepford (The Stepford Wives)
What’s it like? Stepford is a very pleasant neighbourhood in Connecticut, USA, where Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) moves with her husband and children, in the 1975 chiller based on the classic Ira Levin novel The Stepford Wives.
Pros: What’s not to like about Stepford? All the people that live there are friendly, not to mention well off and well presented, and the town is safe and picturesque. A wife can lead a life of leisure here – playing tennis or enjoying a coffee morning with her neighbours. Just as long as she gets the grocery shopping done!
Cons: Joanna gets an odd feeling about Stepford – why, for example do all the wives seem to act the same, and have nothing much to say beyond everyday pleasantries? And why does everything in Stepford have to be so damned perfect? She’s about to find out.
Seahaven Island (The Truman Show)
What’s it like? Seahaven Island is a delightful seaside town, where Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) has lived his entire life, in the hit 1998 film, directed by Peter Weir. Seahaven Island is, in fact, a gigantic TV set, constructed for the purposes of a reality show. Burbank’s entire life has been watched across the globe.
Pros: The town is immaculate, colourful and smiley. You’d never want to leave – not that you can.
Cons: If it’s privacy you’re after – or free will, or real friends, for that matter, Seahaven might not suit.
Revolutionary Road (Revolutionary Road)
What’s it like? In postwar America, upwardly mobile couple Frank and April Wheeler (Leonard DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) move to a suburb in Connecticut, in Sam Mendes’ 2008 adaptation of Richard Yates’ classic novel.
Pros: Revolutionary Road is the perfect place for the perfect couple who are young and attractive, with healthy children and good careers.
Cons: It’s not the best place to be when your career or relationship falters – you might start drinking too much to offset the tedium of the suburbs and the daily grind, and keeping up with the Joneses is such a chore!
What’s it like? Pleasantville is the name of a 1950s sitcom about a thoroughly wholesome town that lives up to its name. Fans of the show, twins David and Jennifer (Tobey Maguire and Reece Witherspoon) are transported into the fictional town by a magical remote control, in this 1998 fantasy drama.
Pros: Pleasantville is all white picket fences, soda fountains and carefree living. It’s as if the outside world and its problems don’t exist.
Cons: Everything in the town is in black and white, and the residents don’t know about anything beyond the strict confines of the town. Newcomers and their new ways are treated with suspicion.
Cuesta Verde (Poltergeist)
What’s it like? In the 1982 Tobe Hooper horror, real estate agent Steve Freeling (Craig T Nelson) has the pick of houses at the new development Cuesta Verde in sunny California. However, strange things start happening at night, and the Freeling family begin to wonder if their dream house is in fact a bit of a nightmare.
Pros: This is a lovely place, with all the mod cons, perfect for a young family who want fresh air and a sense of community.
Cons: Unfortunately, Cuesta Verde is built on a Native American burial ground – and the greedy developer didn’t relocate the bodies before construction begun. The spirits of the dead are not happy – and the unlucky homeowners will suffer the consequences.
Spahn Ranch (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
What’s it like? In Quentin Tarantino’s magnificent 2019 film, film stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) gives a hitchhiker a lift to Spahn Ranch, a deserted film set, which has been taken over by hippies.
Pros: The 55-acre ranch, which contains various buildings used in western films, is set among rolling hills, a perfect spot for horse riding and hiking.
Cons: The ranch was taken over by Charles Manson and his ‘family’. To be part of this group you have to drop out, pitch in, and maybe get involved with murder.
The commune (Midsommar)
What’s it like? This remote Swedish commune (location unknown) is the destination for a group of American students, including Florence Pugh, to witness a unique summer festival, in Ari Aster’s cruel and creepy horror film from 2019.
Pros: Beautiful scenery, a back to nature vibe, welcoming locals, organic food, fascinating ancient rituals, a real sense of tradition and respect.
Cons: Some of the commune’s rituals might strike newcomers as odd – i.e – the treatment of the village elders is quite hard to stomach. If you want to leave, transport to the train station is limited. Also, poor mobile phone coverage in the area.
VIVARIUM will be released in UK and Irish cinemas and on digital March 27th 2020 courtesy of Vertigo Releasing.