That eternal question that somewhere, at some point, burns in all of us. What is life? What is existence or self-awareness? Are we what we think we are or something completely different? What is our world, our galaxy, or our dimension? Heaven, hell, and everything in between - what, what, what? Reality and fantasy on some level simply become one and the same - as our world blends with countless others and alternate possibilities. Another planet? An alien who looks suspiciously the same as we do? Perhaps we are the aliens, flowing through dimensions one iteration at a time. The mind is a powerful thing is it not? In Marcus McMahon's short film, "A Helical" any or all of what I've written about above could be true. Things could even be more basic - a look at the transition between our heroes realm, and the proverbial heaven or hell. Perhaps, we are following our leading character as he's led closer and closer to the pearly gates or hell itself, kicking and screaming that he isn't ready to go - demanding more and more information. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps - but one thing is one hundred percent clear, this is a strange film. One that I believe will be interpreted differently by any and all of those who watch it. That's not a bad thing - and as a matter of fact? It makes this flick all the more interesting.
That's right reader, I'll be the first to admit that this is a strange and oftentimes confusing film. The plot elements within the film itself are scarce, as is any real dialog that truly explains what is happening. Unless you read the description of this film before watching, you're pretty much left in the dark because not much is explained while you watch. Actually, I don't think anything is really explained at all. The written description tells me that an alien traveller arrives on a planet that looks a lot like our own. But nothing of this is actually in the film, the "alien" could be human - it simply doesn't say. I personally liked that I didn't read the description first, it really allowed my imagination to wander. Not having read the description allowed me to come up with everything I wrote about above - as a possible journey for the character in the film. Knowing the written description, my imagination was still allowed to expand - just not quite as much. Would I recommend this short flick? Hell yeah, in a heartbeat. "A Helical" delivers a strangely nostalgic feeling, as it delivers its strangeness with no apologies. What really makes it shine however, is the eerie, ridiculously uneasy feeling this flick can deliver. It's all in the presentation ladies and gents, and McMahon has one hell of a visual flare.
When it comes to the technical elements of this short film, I don't really know exactly what to write. There are times when the visuals are really quite corny - and other times they are brilliant. I'm pretty sure that the overly cheesy elements are on purpose - I'm looking at you talking head of God. All done in an attempt to add a retro vibe to an otherworldly film. It worked for me, especially when I can clearly see the cornball effects here-and-there are optional - considering some of the amazing visuals presented within the same film. Our leading character is also a strange balancing act. Patterns, repeated dialog, and just general loopyness (is that even a word?) all come into play. Yet it all comes together so well it createse an experience that is so unusual, that it really is creepy and uneasy. "A Helical" and it's production design, including the droning background score, is what makes this film elicit the feelings and emotions it conjures. There's a definite push to awkwardness and it works like a charm.
At the end of the day? This film is so unusual both in terms of context and content, that it literally sucks you inside. I'll admit that it feels a little long by the end, but only slightly. No matter how you slice it, this is one to watch for. On a personal note? I decided to disregard the written description, and simply let my mind make up its own conclusions. However, no matter how you decide to take this one in, it's well worth the half-hour. A completely solid four stars. Well done.