Day 10 - History of Fear and Robot Overlords #LFF

Short one for Day 10, what with it being Friday and all. A mix up with tickets meant that Son of  Gun became the first casualty of disorganisation. And absolutely nothing to do with us getting riotously drunk down the road from Covent Garden Odeon. Not our strongest festival day by any measure.

Writer / director Benjamín Naishtat's feature debut History of Fear is a strange one. On the one hand, he does an excellent job of building a palpable sense of unease without anything particularly sinister happening, on the other, the entire movie only barely elicited a shrug from me as I left the screening.

Set in a private community in Argentina, on the outskirts of the city, we follow various connected people around during their ordinary day to day as a helicopter buzzes ominously overhead and slightly too casual security guards patrol the rolling parkland that surrounds the upper middle class houses. Add to this some mysterious fires from a neighbouring patch of wasteland and rolling blackouts caused by the summer heat and tensions begin to rise.

History of Fear would probably work as a documentary but as a feature, it lacks any discernible characters, any plot and although the bubbling tension is impressive, the complete lack of dramatic payoff leaves you wondering what just happened. And more crucially, why you spent 79 minutes waiting for nothing to happen. Points for atmosphere then but little else.

Sometimes you just have to wonder why a film has managed to attract the star names it has. Sadly, this is definitely the case with Robot Overlords. We haven't exactly covered the Family strand of this year's festival with any degree of thoroughness so a quick Friday afternoon press screening of this one looked like fun. Robots have taken over the planet and have grounded everyone, kids and adults alike. A core of human overseers, or collaborators, depending on who you speak to help the spooky humanoid robot overlord keep things in check. When four kids discover the secret to disabling the neck mounted chips that allow the robots to track the humans, the race is on to save the world.

It's a shame this movie is saddled with one of the worst scripts we've heard and some utterly nonsensical plot points (and we're not being snobby here, we're well aware this is a kids film) as with the talent involved and some decent special effects, it should have managed much more. As it is we're stuck with people yelling wooden phrases whilst running around some gorgeous scenery. At the point where Gillian Anderson's character appears on a horse fleeing the main human bad guy, having apparently conjured the horse from thin air, we pretty much gave up with this. The raucous laughs of the press corps in the screening room only compounded the fact that this is a horrible misfire.

Robot Overlords is clearly aiming for territory most recently trod by the immeasurably superior Super 8, it has some serious subject matter and doesn't skimp on swearing but what it actually achieves is well, poor. There isn't another word for it really.

Si