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Most men can verify that the women in our lives ridicule us for our genetic predisposition to channel surf. Put as remote control in the hands of a person possessing a ‘Y’ chromosome and a rapidly flickering progression of video content will ensue. Now the effect is greatly magnified with the plethora of channels available on cable augmented by video on demand and streaming services including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon. Currently there are more options than our fathers could ever have conceived. While the ladies chide us about this practice it very well could be the last vestige of our hunter instincts. Recently my acceptance of this viewpoint when one day I was on the prowl for something different top watch and marinated to bring home a Mastodon of entertainment; ‘Lunopolis’. I was just looking for something I hadn’t seen and with close to 5,000 titles in my collection this is typically not an easy task. I found it while looking through science fiction flicks on my new Roku streaming content player. It just struck me as something that might be a passable popcorn flick when I didn’t feel like going over to the shelves to choose a disc. At the end of its ninety eight minute running time I sat the with my mouth agape in surprise; it was simply one of the best independent Sci-Fi movies I have seen in a very long time. I looked over to my best friend who watched it with me to see my reaction mirrored. I set out looking for a snack and uncovered a feast. What is most amazing about this film is disproves many preconceptions that are commonly held with many fan, including myself. If I had read more than a fleeting glimpse at the blurb I most likely would have skipped past it which would have been a shame. This bucking the odds is one aspect of what makes this movie worthwhile after many decades of watching Sci-Fi I thought I was doomed to watch little variations of the same old things but then something comes along to reassure me there are still people out there capable of original ideas. ‘Lunopolis is just that kind of film.

As mentioned this film utilizes motifs that I typically find sat best pedantic. It is in the ‘lost footage’ genre that has become greatly over used and misapplied since ‘The Blair Witch Project’. It also uses conspiracy theory as the foundation for the story. Usually I feel that this has become an easy way to set up the most improbable plot threads under the cloak of pseudo plausibility. I realized this as I was first watching the movie but the way the elements were combined rapidly pulled me into the story so that these factors that would normally irk me considerably didn’t seem to exert that effect. One factor that is responsible for this is the film initially unfolds slowly. This provides ample opportunity for the filmmaker to begin laying down the exposition setting the parameters for the story’s universe. Before you know it you have naturally suspended belief and are hooked. At the start of the film a director (Jed Himel) explains that he came upon some raw footage made by two documentarians; Nat (Nathan Avant) and Arte (Arte Richard). They were certain they were onto the biggest story in history. As the Director continues to explain the pair didn’t finish their project but he felt he retained their original goals. The mystery started with a strange video that appeared on the internet before it suddenly was pulled. It depicted some men fighting, one is shot graphically in the head and then they vanish in a flash of light. Their investigation uncovers a Polaroid photo of an odd looking man in a suit. On the back was a string of numbers that turned out to be GPS coordinates. This takes them to a shack that was on top of a sixties style underground facility. In one room by itself is an odd apparatus that the pair manages to retrieve before the upper structure explodes. From there they are inexorably pulled into a quagmire of ever deepening intrigue and a morass of conspiracy theories. At the center is a ‘religion’, the church of Lunology. It has a striking resemblance to a well know organization. In Lunology you move up through eight levels of ‘Awake’ but the truth is revealed only to the uppermost echelon. It turns out the moon is inhabited by human beings from far in the future. They travel back in time to correct historical mistakes in hopes of perfecting the time line. Those on higher ‘Awake’ levels can perceive these changes and existing across the changed time lines. Nat and Arte are soon running from forces much larger in scope and influence they initially realized.

The story is convoluted but worth keeping up with it. In the middle of the film there is a spliced in talking heads segment that provides a few perks. First it breaks up the found footage format before it can become hackney. It also adds the right touch of validation to reinforce the desired mood. Lastly it speeds up the exposition smoothly leading into the endgame. The video is not as crude, out of focus and shaky as to incite a headache; just enough to sell the on the fly filming techniques. The premise is just outlandish enough to actually be a generally believed conspiracy theory. This is supported subtly by the use of allusions to that tabloid fodder religion that many stars have become involved with. The acting is realistic for the genre and the direction by first timer Matthew Avant demonstrates considerable talent that is worth watching as he sharpens his skills in each of the many capacities he served as here. The film was straight to video which breaks another misconception. It used to be direct to video movies were the ones with little or no intrinsic cinematic value. In recent years DTV has become a valid means for the starting auteur to get his work out to the public. Without such exposure there would be little progress in style and technique. This was something I stumbled on but I was glad I did.

Posted 02/21/12

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