The Subjects

Scott Wallace
9th Nov 2015

With a film landscape completely overrun with superhero movies, you can barely look anywhere without seeing one caped crusader or another enshrined on a poster. The Subjects, which has been billed as an "anti-superhero" film, is a smart and original deconstruction of the tropes of superheroes and superpowers. Showing the practicalities (or rather, impracticalities) of being burdened with super powers, The Subjects uses black comedy to break down the myth of the superhero.

The Australian film, which has been released to video-on-demand platforms like Vimeo, Amazon, iTunes and Google Play makes a strong argument for the viability of independent distribution and marketing using the internet. With a strong cast of recognisable Australian talent, writer and director Robert Mond has made something tautly constructed, thought-provoking and engaging on a minimal budget.

Through a parody commercial complete with vague marketing jargon and offensively bland muzak, we are introduced to the corporation SunSkye, and from there a mismatched group of people undertaking a drug trial. Some initial hesitance and dubiousness quickly introduces the various competing personalities, among them the rough, tattooed Giggles, the warm and friendly Nicky, the party girl Jenna, science-fiction nerd Lily, voice-of-reason John and the impatient, business-like Damon. At first, it seems the odd-looking pills they popped may have been placebos, but before long it becomes shockingly clear that something is up.

The originality of The Subjects lies in its high-concept plot and its isolated setting. It's not often that you find a conceptual piece of sci-fi that relies so heavily on dialogue and character development. It's obvious that the cast had a lot of fun inhabiting these characters and bringing them to life in the face of bizarre circumstances. 

The film's special effects are obviously not the standard set by big budget blockbusters, but they are used sparingly enough wisely enough that they don't become too jarring. The film does stumble a bit in its third act, when many ambiguities are left hanging. But perhaps that's the point - these are ordinary people in a very not ordinary situation. How can they possibly hope to comprehend what is happening to them?

Its shortcomings aside, The Subjects is a lot of fun, and a welcome take on film clichés. It's also a great example of the way the internet is making it easier for filmmakers and other creatives to get their work to an audience with minimal interference and in a more cost-effective way than the traditional route of cinema releases and home media. 

The Subjects is available to watch now. Visit the film's website for more info.