Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Directed by: Jon Russell Cring, Jack Skyyler, Beth Konrad Brown
Written by: Beth Konrad Brown, Jon Russell Cring, Tracy Nichole Cring and Jack Skyyler
Starring: Michael T. Geary, Megan Phelps, Charlie Way Hayes
Resistance, an excellent sci-fi/horror six-minute short by John Russell Cring was made five years before COVID-19, but as we follow the struggles of a young couple trying to resist infection by a mysterious virus, I was both horrified and initially bemused. Cring has over 30 directing credits (including Little Bi Peep and Point Society) and created multi-award-winning Resistance for the 48 hour Film Festival.
Although chilling, there’s something simply beautiful about this narrative. Parents to be are deciding which world they want their baby to grow up in. This universal dilemma is distilled into a choice between attempting to protect the child by isolating themselves and resisting change or giving up autonomy and conforming to the now dominant way of life, becoming part of the ‘hive’ mind. Despite being a horror short (and an insect-borne virus that is virtually inescapable is, of course, horrific) the tenderness of the couple’s relationship and the intimacy of their world is touching. Beautifully shot in black and white, Cring presents their simple lives within a simple room. The opening shot of them sleeping then waking up together, holding her pregnancy bump, is tender and made more so by the score dominated by simple, melancholic piano music. There’s no dialogue, only the father’s voice-over who says their baby is ‘our future’. It’s only the gasmasks and boarded-up windows that corrupt their morning bliss. As the father reaches for the mask, she attempts to pull him back to bed, trying to resist reality.
Beyond their cell, the effects of this ‘apocalypse’ are horrendous. In a warehouse/hospital, patients are strapped down on iron beds. Initially, the space feels calm, nurses wheel in trolleys and treat patients despite the father telling us ‘vaccination, amputation… quarantine failed’. Obviously, given current events (our global pandemic), these scenes are chilling. Questions regarding our ability to effectively control such viruses are at the forefront of our global scientific, political and civilian ‘hive’ minds. Quickly, the action escalates as virus victims are gunned down or choose to become intentionally infected, rather than resist. Fantastic special effects show victims’ blood turning black, and insect-like growths taking over their bodies. Inside the virus-King and Queen’s inner chamber, a woman sprawled across a banqueting table is being both fed and consumed. When you are part of the ‘hive’, there are no more struggles but no more freedom either. It’s easy to see why some would find this tempting. It’s often easier to conform than resist. The benefits of joining the hive are clear; no more ‘fear’or ‘jealousy’. ‘Violence’ becomes extinct. Yet what is lost, of course, is individuality, freedom and humanity. But those who ‘resist’ live in fear and squalor. It’s clear such an existence is unlikely to remain possible for long.
Back in their cell, the couple receive a written invitation to join the hive. In the denouement, they sit side by side on the sofa, gas masks on, contemplating the choice that we all have to make today; to resist or conform. As the father says, ‘whatever we decide, we decide for our baby’. In 2020, the choices we make about our lifestyles, behaviours and individuality vs. conformity will change the future. It’s easy to be lured in by the promise of safety and security but, in reality, the loss of freedom is a price never worth paying. The final piano notes play out, like a singsong nursery rhyme, and a brief blackout allows us time for contemplation until the eerie sounds of insects builds and the credits roll. I urge you, watch Resistance and think hard. Your life may depend upon it…