Other Worlds Austin Review: Defective

Canadian dystopia keeps you on your toes

The future is armored in dystopian thriller Defective

Cinematic dystopias are a challenge. Either the characters seem bulletproof, so this future is not that imperfect, or they are all so clearly doomed that their preordained fate reduces the dramatic tension. Surveillance state thriller Defective gives at least the chance that the players may survive, even if the cost is absolute compliance.

The low-budget Canadian fable (which made its local debut this weekend at the Other Worlds Austin film festival) creates that most insidious of near-futures: one that is close enough to the modern everyday, but with an oppressive twist. People go to work, they go home, they follow rules. Those rules are enforced by the Preservers of Peace, armored police officers who could pass as robots if it was not for their cadence, dripping with malice.

Writer/director Reese Eveneshen (another member of the rising film scene in the unlikely genre capital of Guelph, Canada) takes what at first seem to be unrelated plot threads. Rhett (Colin Paradine) sees the Preservers pull off a merciless execution. Meanwhile Jean (Raven Cousens) watches as her new office mate Pierce (Dennis Andres, with all the crackling wit of a Chris Pratt) sets about annoying the Preserver assigned to their workplace. Yes, the Preservers are everywhere, ever since omnipresent corporation S.E.A. struck a deal with the unnamed State.

Defective focuses on the white-collar complicity required to keep a police state functioning. At the same time, Eveneshen is prepared to create his Room 101 moment, with some surprisingly gruesome practical effects when S.E.A. decides that mere threats are not enough. It's that grisly threat that brings Rhett and Jean together, as they were drawn into a haphazard rebellion.

That shockingly and literally visceral twist is one of a handful of surprising left turns that push Defective above its well-spent shoestring budget. There may be one reveal too many by the final act, but that's a small consequence for a script that paints an all-too-plausible future, where the ambitions of autocrats and technocrats are all too easily melded.

Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival runs Dec. 7-10 at Flix Brewhouse. Tickets and info at www.otherworldsaustin.com.

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