Humanoids in horror films are not a new concept, but it is not common to see a story about a humanoid that is experiencing horror instead of creating it. This is the unusual premise of Elliot, a film written and directed by Craig Jacobson.
There is much to like in this movie. It contains elements of sci-fi fantasy and features distinctive sets and costumes that combine both robotic and organic elements. The special effects may not be as fancy as those found in films with larger production budgets, but they are fun to watch.
In terms of the story, I think that most people can relate to Elliot’s desire for something more than his dull existence as a power complex maintenance worker who must do the bidding of the Face (played by Robert Pristine Condition Gammel). The Face is an overseer that constantly barks orders at Elliot (played by Joshua Coffy) through a monitor, and it sends out sentries to patrol the complex and keep the workers in line.
After spending day after day being stuck in the dark, oppressive atmosphere of the power complex, who wouldn’t want to escape into an alternate reality with a better alternate second self (played by Craig Jacobson), a personal butler (played by Jay Sosnicki), and a captivating dancer (played by Anna Muravitskaya)? I thought the dancer with her fluid movements was a good way to embody some of the brighter aspects of life that were missing in Elliot’s existence such as freedom, creativity, and love.
Elliot also provides an interesting study in the nature of identity. It does a good job of pointing out that humans are largely products of social conditioning.
After he abandons his socially constructed role as a maintenance worker, Elliot feels lost because there is nothing else to replace it with. He does not have any other social ties or anything else that could help him redefine himself. He does not have a family, and Bianca, the one female acquaintance who relieves some of his loneliness (played by Cassandra Sechler and Rachel H. Toups as the Second Bianca), dies shortly after saving his life. Even the alternate reality he cares for so much does not provide him with any satisfying answers about who he is and what he should be doing with his life. After everything he knows leads him to a mental dead-end, his terrifying descent into despair and madness begins.
The interplay between Elliot’s psychological breakdown and the movie’s existential themes sometimes creates confusion for those watching the movie.
How do we know what is real in Elliot’s new warped world and what is not? The second half of the movie contains several ambiguous scenes and characters that left me lost as a viewer. Why does the sentry that Elliot beats to death laugh at Elliot before it dies? Who is the stranger that tells Elliot “You have no real point of reference” among other things? Since the stranger does not appear to be a sentry, is it possible that he is also an escapee? Who or what is the strange creature that tells Elliot “you’re not what I expected either”?
The ending is also ambiguous. Does the spider-like creature that appears to Elliot actually carry out its plan to “make everything okay” for Elliot? Or is it a trickster figure like the evil counterpart of the dancer that also appears in the second half of the film?
The concept behind Elliot is good, but at times the storyline is hard to follow. The meaning of the varied and often mysterious characters that appear and disappear in Elliot’s world is open to interpretation. Psychoanalysts and some viewers may enjoy the mental challenge this presents, but this open-ended quality of the film may leave other viewers perplexed. Elliot is an experimental film, so I think it is suited for the adventurous moviegoer who does not mind watching a movie that breaks away from the conventions of formula horror movies.