Short Film Friday: The Brain Hack (Dir: Joseph White)

TheBrainHackThere is something incredibly exciting about the state of science fiction in the medium of short film making. We have highlighted a host of sci fi works on this site, but few have filled me with the level of adrenalin and excitement that The Brain Hack has in its short twenty minutes. In tone, it is most reminiscent of great independent science fiction films like Primer. The idea of home brew experimentation leading to revelatory results.  Even the narration throughout the film feels akin to Shane Carruth’s masterpiece. And while I can make comparisons to the works of others, that is almost somewhat unfair to writer and director Joseph White, for in The Brain Hack, he has created something incredibly special. A short film that must be watched until the very end, The Brain Hack takes as its premise that a series of images and patterns, if displayed correctly and under a prescribed set of conditions, initiates the viewer to God-like hallucinations. An eager computer scientist and a film studies student set out to document their experiments with the theory, yet as they begin to progress, shadowy forces clue in to their sacrilege and ultimately set out to stop them. I am not going to spoil the ending here. All I can do is urge you to watch until the final credits role. What this film does is beyond unique.

I can go into detail about the aesthetic, its muted colouring and lighting, its unique sound design; all of it is top notch film making. The cast is also very strong here. Both Alexander Owen and Edward Franklin deliver tremendous performances. But what I would really like to emphasize about this short is how it interacts with its audience. When creating a piece of science fiction, it sometimes feels necessary to over-explain the rules of the fiction itself. That can lead to an effect where the audience feels as if they are being talked down to. That is not the case with White’s film. He has a tremendous amount of respect for the audience here, and while much of the dialogue centres on very complex theory, there is very little emphasis on the need to explain that theory to the audience. They will either get it or they won’t. It is an approach that the best science fiction film makers have taken, and in that vein, White must be commended.

While 20 minutes can seem quite long for a short  film, I must again urge you to watch until the end. Failure to do so is to waste a tremendous opportunity for something special. You can check out the short below:

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