My wife and I watched Annihilation on Netflix the other night. She was thought it was pretentious wank. I enjoyed it (I’m quite fond of pretentious wank), though I agreed it was flawed. I haven’t read the book, but I think I might hunt it out now to see how it differs from the film.
* * * SPOILERS * * *
It’s basically Tarkovsky’s Stalker meets H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space. In Stalker, a group of nameless protagonists (the Writer, the Professor, the Stalker) travel into an area of wilderness sealed off by the government called “the zone”. Reality is breaking down here, so they have to tread carefully. They are searching for a specific landmark in the wilderness called “the room”. Each has their own reason for seeking this place.
In Annihilation, a group of nameless protagonists (the Biologist, the Anthropologist, the Psychologist – at least, in the book they’re apparently nameless… they’re all given names in the film) travel into an area of wilderness sealed off by the government called “the shimmer”. Reality is breaking down here, so they have to tread carefully. They are searching for a specific landmark in the wilderness called “the lighthouse”. Each has their own reason for seeking this place.
Just as in Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, a meteorite has fallen from space. It has released a colourful, radiation-like cosmic effect (“the shimmer”) that warps and mutates (ultimately fatally) the flora and fauna around the impact spot. The affected area is slowly growing, creeping toward civilisation. It’s unclear whether the phenomenon is sentient or not, or what it’s motivation might be (if it has such a thing). The core of the phenomenon is hidden underground (in Lovecraft, it’s at the bottom of a well; in Annihilation, it’s hidden beneath the lighthouse).
Annihilation takes these source materials (though the author of the book, Jeff VanderMeer, has denied Lovecraft was an influence in the original novel) and mixes them up into something new. It scrambles their DNA, adding a splash of 2001, maybe a dash of Arrival, a hint of Under the Skin.
Which is fitting, because that’s the central conceit of the movie; the shimmer is supposedly refracting everything within it, mixing it all together. Creating something new. [Read more…]