Dir: Matt Osterman
Starring: Sasha Andreev, Michelle Bergh, Max Hauser and Matthew Feeney
Phasma Ex Machina or Ghost From The Machine is an independent sci-fi/paranormal film, and I am happy to report it is actually a rather good one. Time and again a film comes along, that on the surface appears to be one thing and it turns out to be another. This film was that for me, judging by its very cool cover I figured it would be a run of the mill horror/ghost film that perhaps was aiming to be Paranormal Activity or a ‘Haunting’ film. It actually isn’t anything like those at all, and much like the Australian film Lake Mungo (review here), it very much deals with grief through its characters and their actions.
Our main character Cody (Sasha Andreev) has just lost his parents in a car accident, he is left to took after his younger brother James (Max Hauser). He struggles with his own grief and this new responsibility of looking after someone else. It is clear he isn’t coping, and neither is his brother who sits and plays video games all day and often misses school. Cody immerses himself in electromagnetic devices in the hopes of contacting the other side. It doesn’t seem to be working, however an acquaintance Tom (Matthew Feeney) an engineer begins to see his dead wife. She isn’t the only one who has crossed from the other side, and things aren’t looking good for Cody.
It is an interesting concept, not a new one, but I like how they have handled it here. Adding in more of a scientific explanation of where these spirits and entities come from actually works well, even if I don’t entirely understand it. What drives both of the men in this film is their grief, and the fact they haven’t and can’t really let go of what they have lost. Because of this, their lives are slowly going down hill, they lose touch of reality and it has severe consequences. This is where the film hits, and it does a good job of doing so.
Sasha Andreev is quite good, he is a strong actor and he really holds the film together. His grief and the way he handles it was very natural and handled very well. While not quite as good is Matthew Feeney is solid, his pain was easily felt and it was important to. The supporting cast do a decent job, perhaps the ones who portrayed the ghosts tried a little too hard to appear menacing but it didn’t quite work.
The film was very well made for low budget, it did not rely on cheap scares to bring the audience in. It was a character driven piece, that was moving at times and also very sad because of what those characters were going through. I definitely enjoy seeing something that goes against the norm with a genre, and this did that. Matt Osterman wrote a very good script, and he also directed a very fine film. He should be proud of what he has done, and I highly recommend giving this one a shot.
The Australian DVD
The copy I reviewed is a screener, so there are no extra features aside from the films trailer.
Thanks to Bill at Gryphon Entertainment for the copy.