“We’ve sent in drones. And teams of people. But nothing comes back” says a scientist to Lena (Natalie Portman), whose soldier husband is lying unconscious and dangerously ill in a hospital bed after reappearing out of a strange area. “Well something has” replies Lena, not unreasonably.
Lena’s husband (Oscar Isaac) has reappeared after a trip into this mysterious area, which has been subject to some kind of environmental disaster. It’s called The Shimmer, and looks, well, really pretty.
Lena is determined to find out what has happened to her husband, and joins an all-female group sent back in to investigate: Lena the biologist, group leader and psychologist Jennifer Jason Leigh, surveyor Tessa Thompson, linguist Tuva Novotny, and anthropologist Gina Rodriguez. Unfortunately for them they appear to have missed off Sigourney Weaver, monster killer, as soon they’re faced with an alligator with shark teeth and something else really terrifying.
In fact the trailer for Annihilation (check it out below) is slightly unusual in that we know immediately that Lena, who has previously worked with the military, has managed to make it back, as her story is then told in flashback; and we also actually get to see the monster.
There may well be psychological horror going on but there’s also a traditional scary ass creature stalking them in an “I know there’s something with too many teeth by my ear and it’s not Gerard Butler trying out his seduction techniques” type of way.
The Shimmer looks extraordinary – it’s filled with flowers as well as monsters, and evolution appears to be fast and constant. And it’s expanding, swallowing everything in its path with its beautiful and terrifying weirdness.
Based on the trailer the film looks like it could mix intellectual questions with monsters and firepower. Add in the mostly female cast, and Annihilation has the potential to be an intelligent and genuinely scary thriller/horror with a difference. And if it doesn’t work, at least an honourable failure is usually worth a watch.
Annihilation is based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer. The film is directed by Alex Garland and is being released in the US on 23 February 2018. It looks as if non-US markets will get the film via Netflix a few weeks later.