★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Peripheral is a claustrophobic science fiction/horror hybrid that casts a satirical eye on technological addiction. It’s a wild take featuring dazzling visuals and nods to Cronenbergian techno body horror.
Directed by Paul Hyett
The intrusion of technology in a reclusive writer’s life, along with technological addiction, drive the U.K. science fiction/horror film Peripheral. Director Paul Hyett (The Seasoning House, Prowl, Heretiks) crafts a delightfully odd outing that will leave some viewers scratching their heads and others reaching for the play button to see if a second viewing offers any new resolutions — both outcomes meant in a positive manner.
Author Bobbi Johnson’s (Hannah Arterton of The Convent) debut book Bite the Hand is so controversial that it has led to rioting in the streets of London. Now it is time for her follow-up, and she is suffering from a case of writer’s block. Her publisher Jordan (Belinda Stewart-Wilson) tries to motivate the low-tech Bobbi by sending her a word processing computer to speed things up. This is no ordinary word processor, however; it is a cutting-edge piece of machinery with software that automatically changes Bobbi’s writing into exactly what Jordan wants it to be so that the new book will be a best-seller. It also changes Bobbi physically.
Adding to Bobbi’s woes are her ex-boyfriend Dylan (Elliot James Langridge), who leaves a stash of illicit pills at her home, and computer technician Merlock (Jenny Seagrove), who provides questionable upgrades to the system — and then there is the obsessed fan (Rosie Day) who threatens self-harm unless Bobbi contacts her directly.
As the machine takes over Bobbi’s life in nefarious ways, Arterton rises to the occasion with a terrific performance. Though the supporting cast is also strong, Arterton stands out as her character goes through myriad emotions and trials and the actress nails them all.
The visual effects are a blast and a definitely a highlight of the Peripheral. Si Begg’s psychedelic electronic score blends perfectly with those effects and the world of the film.
Hyett, working from an imaginative, intelligent script from Dan Schaffer (Doghouse) that isn’t short on literary references, directs Peripheral with a kinetic zeal. No matter how peculiar things get, Hyett never loses sight of the film’s satirical messages regarding mankind’s ever-growing dependency on technology. That’s just one of the film’s targets. I’ll leave the others for viewers to gleefully discover.
Peripheral, from Blue Finch Film Releasing, receives its digital release in the United Kingdom and Ireland on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, and Google on August 3.