“Firebase” is a short film from Oats Studios. Oats Studios is the brainchild of South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp who was nominated for an Oscar for “District 9”. His idea is to make experimental short films and provide them free via YouTube and Steam. If there is enough interest and financing becomes available, the films might be expanded into feature films. The start-up is a gamble as, based on “Firebase”, production costs are clearly way above whatever revenue they bring in. Good luck, Neill. Until his business model proves a failure, let’s enjoy the free content.
“Firebase” starts with a viewer discretion warning. It is definitely not for children. A title card informs us: “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Sci-fi vibe established. Immediately followed with a horror vibe via a mutilated corpse tied to a post. But it’s also a war movie because it is set in Vietnam in 1970. Footage establishes that Vietnam was hell. Blomkamp imagines it as literally hellish. The plot is so gonzo it is hard to summarize. There is a River God who is wreaking havoc on American soldiers, transforming them into zombielike creatures. A CIA operative enigmatically calls the monster “a mistake”. He needs Sgt. Hines to liquidate the anomaly. Hines is basically an anti-virus. He is not only a kick-ass warrior, but he seemingly is invulnerable to the River God’s godlike powers.
I tend to think of short films as being low budget and thus low in production values. This film does not fit that stereotype. Blomkamp filmed in the jungles of South Africa with a snake wrangler to protect the cast and crew from black mombas. So the jungle looks legit, but it’s the special effects and makeup that wow. The reanimated corpses are shown in all their anatomical creepiness. The River God is scary as hell. It’s not a film you want to see alone on a stormy night. Or if you are eating anything. As hard as it is to believe, the movie is clearly a war movie. Besides the footage, there is a fire-fight and Hines goes down into a tunnel. There is a nifty recreation of a base camp and the film uses several Hueys. It is also a sci-fi movie as there is some space-time continuum thrown in to make heads spin. And there’s this electromagnetic coil gun (think BFG, Doom fans) and a relativity capsule to provide a force-field around the demon-slayer Hines. The only weakness in the film is we don’t get to see that bad boy in action as the movie leaves the YouTube watchers screaming for more.
If it is transformed into a feature length film, it will have to have a big budget to follow through with what Blomkamp was able to do in 27 minutes. He’ll probably look for big-name actors, but the cast here is good. And they don’t have to spout ridiculous dialogue. On paper, it might read as ridiculous, however. Don’t think too much when you are watching it. Let me know what you think in the comment section.
GRADE = A
You can watch it here: Firebase
a short teaser