Prior to seeing a preview for Annihilation during Justice League, I hadn’t heard anything about the film. After seeing the preview, I thought it looked interesting. Seemed like your basic jump-scare horror/sci-fi amalgamation, akin to the 1979 classic Alien. But I went into the film with no expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Natalie Portman plays Lena, ex-Army and currently a biologist at Johns Hopkins, whose husband Kane (portrayed shortly but sweetly by Oscar Isaac), still in the Army, has been missing and presumed dead for a year. But surprise! He’s alive, and has no memory of the past twelve months.
As Lena tries pressing him for information, Kane begins coughing blood. During the ambulance ride to the hospital, they’re hijacked by SWAT and taken to Area X, where the military and scientists are studying an out of this world phenomena they call the Shimmer.
Lena, upset by her husband’s illness and seeing no other way to cure him, volunteers for a mission to enter the Shimmer and find out what’s going on. Four other women enter the Shimmer with her, including the psychologist Dr. Ventress, played with expert dramatic flair by Jennifer Jason Leigh. But what happens when they go inside questions everything we know about psychology, environment, and what it means to be human. I won’t spoil the ending, but in the world of Hollywood cliche, it was a breath of fresh air.
Annihilation is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. During the showing, I found myself reminded somewhat of Naughty Dog’s hit zombie game The Last of Us, in the way nature reclaimed the area within the Shimmer. The music was also reminiscent of Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack for The Last of Us: somewhat folksy and heavy on the guitar, composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury. The film is visually stunning, even when the bright colors within the Shimmer seem muted.
If you’re one to get easily queasy, or if you get upset during jump-scare cinema, I recommend avoiding this one. There are creepy scenes, bloody scenes, downright disturbing scenes, and even a couple of love scenes. But if you’re ready for a new sci-fi horror adventure that dazzles as much as it stimulates, Annihilation may just be the film you’re looking for.