Filmmaking duo Ian Bousher and Theo Gee collaborate once again for their latest short film, Aping, sharing directorial and screenwriting responsibilities between themselves. Aping focuses on the topic of social conformity, depicting what happens when a psychological experiment takes a dark turn. Its central focus is Chimp (Tim Scragg), who learns and adapts terrifyingly to the strange environment of the test and its subjects.
This film owes a lot to the template created by Black Mirror. The dark psychological undertones to the script, its steadily escalating, shocking violence and the creepy dog mask worn by the silent test enforcer are all features which are undeniably reminiscent of Channel 4’s hit show. Unfortunately, Aping lacks the intelligence or originality to leave the same kind of lasting cultural impression that Black Mirror has.
After the first couple of minutes pass and the premise reveals itself, it becomes obvious in which direction the plot is going to go. This means that there is very little to surprise or provoke thought here, because the subject the film explores has already been covered thoroughly elsewhere. Aping does nothing to contribute meaningfully to cinematic or psychological discussions of human social compliance.
In fairness, the fact that the main character is labelled Chimp is somewhat interesting, because it seems to bring up questions about the violent, manipulative nature of humans in the way that he embraces the violent options gleefully. But this discussion is only explored to an extent and is never really clarified or justified within the film.
Furthermore, the film has been summarised and promoted by the filmmakers as a comedy. But there is very little, if anything, to laugh at in this film, which makes this labelling seem strange. It also makes questionable the film’s intentions, as if it is truly intended to be funny then this objective is not executed well at all.
There are promising elements in the film which suggest the potential for improvement, though. In particular, the directors’ ability to draw performances from the actors ensures the film is engaging in spite of its flaws. Every actor seems to understand their character, and every character is singularly unique and distinctive. Though this is not enough in itself to rescue Aping, it does highlight it as simply a case of talented filmmakers failing to actualise their ideas into a compelling piece of cinema on this particular occasion.