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Mouse-X | Film Review

We review the new film from Justin Tagg!

The more people see the film, the more of OUR audience we will find, collect, and invite to join the journey to the next project. We need to build our audience to be sustainable. To make more films.” – Justin Tagg-Director/Writer

Mouse-X is an intriguing Sci-fi short that poses the questions: What would you do if you were not the only you? What if you had to outwit countless clones of yourself who appeared to mirror your every move?

This is the questions the films protagonist, Anderson is faced with. Following what sounds like the sonar of a submarine, he wakes up to the anachronistic sound of Slim Gaillard’s  1938 jazz song The Flat Foot Floogie as he finds himself in an antique chair with a The First Book of Moses (Genesis) on his lap, in a delapidated and David Lynch-esque house. He gazes bemused at his surroundings for a second or two and the room looks at him with its peeling walls and ethereal lighting. How did he get here?

A few months back we were lucky enough to see Mouse-X on the big screen as it was shown at the prestigious BAFTA venue in Piccadilly, where the superb sound system made the nuances of the expertly crafted soundtrack, even more apparent. (We strongly recommend listening to the film through a decent set of headphones, or better yet surround sound.) Throughout the film the soundtrack continues to convey tension, becoming progressively more dramatic with distant tones and high-pitched frequencies adding to the tone of the film.

Anderson (Julian Nicholson) attempts to navigate the seemingly infinite corridor of identical rooms as he tries to break the cycle of events he has become entangled in and break out of the building. As he watches a mouse scurry across the ground he soon realises he has become a mouse in a maze himself, in an elaborate and enigmatic experiment.

Navigating through this crimson hallway he finds himself at different stages in the experiments cycle- realising that what seems to be an action of his free will seems to all be part of the cycle, but without figuring out what that cycle is he has no hope of escape. The film flows well and without ruining things the film does not end as you would expect it to and just as it seems for a second like there might be some kind of predictability to the story- that’s when it’s at it’s most predictable.

The film is the work of writer/director Justin Tagg who we interviewed a few months ago (Read The Interview Here), now moving through the festival world, having already been screened at Cannes Film Festival and at Raindance, the film has been selected  for Santa Monica Independent Film Festival, The Rhode Island Horror Festival and numerous others as well as making it through to the next stage of judging for The British Independent Film Award. The film is also set for a worldwide distribution through Shorts International.

The film is reminiscent of three things straight away, Memento’s looping narrative (although this is obviously done differently), Bioshock infinite’s the protagonist is the antagonist plot device and Portal’s opening scene as it’s protagonist wakes up in an enigmatic testing center to the sound of upbeat music playing from a radio. The illusion of escape from the building also reminds me of Dan Trachtenberg‘s short film Portal: No Escape. It will be interesting to see if there is a feature version or sequel made in the future, if things will go full circle with Anderson once again waking up in the chair at the beginning of the cycle (Memento style) or if he will manage to break free completely.

If there’s anything that could enhance the film, perhaps a confrontation scene between Anderson and one of his clones could have made a great scene and allow for some dialogue interaction that could shed a bit of light on the predicament he has found himself in.

Shot on a Red Epic the endless corridor stands out but all the visuals are great and the CGI acts well to compliment the great set design, there is a particularly great shot where the camera revolving slowly in the hallway turns 360 degrees only for us to find an empty hallway with no Anderson and a different painting on the wall of a woman eerily staring out. Another rotation of the camera and we find ourselves back in the same scene with Anderson again. This is one scene that suggests a multiverse (anything can happen will happen, for every action there is an alternate world.) theory is apparent in this film but that of course is open to interpretation and as Justin as previously mentioned the film is about people with the Sci Fi genre being the backdrop of the story. The rooftop scene is also a great example of the themes of identity and free choice that are imbued into the narrative, with a peculiar face off between Anderson and a clone as they mirror each other with small movements, both wearing the mysterious-what appears to be welders goggles. These goggles have a specific number on them which is apparently by chance but this could be incorporated as a subtle changing detail in a future feature version or sequel.

Left with questions such as is Anderson the original or one of the clones? and is it- as things seem the original Anderson that is orchestrating the elaborate scenario with the drop of the mouse of the X at the end (beginning of the cycle?) or is the original Anderson even being manipulated by someone else to conduct the strange experiment? (In the style of Lost’s bunker. If so it would be interesting to see if this would become a showdown of Anderson vs Anderson in the way that Bioshock Infinite style. One interpretation could be that Anderson is his own worst enemy. There is also the question of the mysterious symbol shaved into the side of Anderson’s head and the relevance of the book he opens at the beginning, perhaps the person behind this experiment has some kind of god complex? Why doesn’t Anderson try and talk to one of his clones instead of hitting him over the head with a book? Does he remember being hit over the head or has this caused some kind of Amnesia? And is it another one of his clones who has put on the music or is there another unseen character in the story?

The film was released free of charge, the idea being to get the film seen by as many people as possible and to gather an audience for his next film or possibly even a feature version of Mouse-X. Scroll down to check it out.

A slice of brilliant, enigmatic and mysterious Sci-Fi

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