Vivarium review — Bleak suburban lockdown horror

Directed by Lorcan Finnegan | Written by Finnegan and Garret Shanley | 97 min | Crave Plus, On Demand

Marketing materials compared this to Black Mirror, but there’s not nearly enough tech anxiety. No, this is an old-fashioned Twilight Zone episode, a nightmarish parable about suburbia as a trap, featuring a couple, British teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) and American handyman Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), who one day join a creepy realtor (actual Black Mirror veteran Jonathan Aris) to look at a house in a cookie-cutter subdivision called Yonder. The realtor disappears, and the couple can’t find their way out of the labyrinthine subdivision. Then things get more peculiar, and terrifying, when a baby shows up in a box.

If there is a mystery at the heart of this thing, it’s opaque and ouroboronic. The messaging is, however, quite clear: our modern life is an empty shell, a hollow, repetitious game, but the only thing that might be worse is not having someone with whom to share the misery.

The other message here is children are hell.  When the baby rapidly grows into a satanic brat (Senan Jennings) that would terrify Damien Thorn, you’ll want to take a pick-axe to him.

What’s even more frustrating than the demon seed is how our leads never really work a way out of this madness. We see their existential frustration, but we’re not offered even a sliver of hope. I don’t know about you, but a redemption-free parable isn’t a cinematic investment that does much for me.

Writing this in week three of pandemic isolation, and if, like me, you’ve been made uncomfortable and slightly claustrophobic by our current reality, I can’t promise watching Vivarium won’t exacerbate those feelings. It’s an atmospheric and reasonably well-made horror that doesn’t really go anywhere but down. If this is your bag, fill your boots.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.