Directed by Joseph David Bowes
Starring Kevin Croak, Eve Cusack, Peter Murphy, David Bakman and Jake Viaene
Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
A scathing satire on the pharmaceutical industry, Pharma Lab Training Video: 1 is a witty, retro film that will appeal to fans of subversive comedy.
Adjusting her headset, a young prospective internship candidate, settles in to watch the Pharma Lab’s first training video. Reminiscent of the 1980s health and safety videos we’ve all been subjected to in our schools, colleges and offices, the film is incredibly retro.
In the video, the pharmaceutical lab Professor (Kevin Croak) walks through the complex, explaining the lab’s unique testing programme – a series of clones, all called Peter. Each cheery Peter believes he is ‘a real boy’ but he’s actually used for opioid and STD testing, among other things. In order to test the new medications, Peter is subjected to violence and is exposed to disease, with the interns and professors turning a blind eye, even when parts of the Peters explode on them. Sometimes the Peters go wild ... but there’s always the ‘grinder’ when that happens. How will our new intern react to this gruesome induction? Will the ‘evil’ Professor running this lab get the comeuppance he deserves?
This film is full of satirical surprises; just as you get comfortable, believing you know what is happening here, the film twists again and you’re confronted with more subversive scenarios.
Stylistically, the film rates highly, with the retro feel of the training video captured so well through Bowes’ use of VHS screen effects and a series of generic, cheesy ‘elevator music’ tracks. Kevin Croak delivers the, frankly, disgusting truth of the Pharma Lab’s work with that stereotypical grin and upbeat-salesman tone, required of all presenters on info-videos, perfectly.
An industry ripe for criticism, the satirical jokes and scathing comments about the ‘ethics’ of the pharmaceutical industry are also incredibly appealing. The ending is both unexpected and pretty hard-hitting, delivering a solid sense of satisfaction which will thoroughly delight anyone who is awake to the realities of animal testing.
The nature of Pharma Lab Training Video: 1 surely paves the way for further ridicule in this retro style; the list of organisations and topical issues ripe for ridicule is extensive. Further films of this nature would certainly be welcome among audiences of satirical short film.