Directed by: #JamesHeaney
Virtual Brutality boasts a cute premise: a chap explores his new VR headset, whilst intruders invade his home, and he inadvertently and obliviously murders them. This idea could lead to a humorous short, but unfortunately, the execution and vision are lacking. James Heaney’s direction is unclear, with the comedy feeling forced and a bit on the nose. Sadly, the #filmmaking elements fail to synergise either, resulting in a bit of a messy experience.
Despite its short length, the pacing is bizarrely weighted, with the first third dedicated to the delivery man character who initially seems to be the central player. This is soon shifted to an advertisement parody, though it doesn’t make much sense in the context of the what we’ve seen so far. The shift is jarring, and feels a bit too random to properly invest in. Credit must however be given to the VR effects, which manage to look convincing and professional.
What is neither convincing nor professional, regrettably, is the acting. The performances are universally wooden and are not supported by a strong script. In particular, the two home invaders played by Brandon Watts and Patrick Suttie lack believability, despite the stylised comedic tone. While director James Heaney aspires for an irreverent script, the dialogue lacks wit or subtly, opting instead to state the obvious via an unclearly presented narrator, played by Alex Doddy, who is spontaneously introduced following the hastily added advertisement plot.
The #soundtrack initially seems to encapsulate the comedic tone well, but soon begins to clash with the on-screen events. A crescendo for the arrival of the delivery man, for example, feels misplaced, and a bit sloppy. When balanced with the heightened style of the fight scene, the score is more affable, but on the whole, it doesn’t fit the narrative, and again, adds to the confused tone and haphazard storytelling. The wider sound design also overlaps far too often. The obviously improvised dialogue of the intruders is muddled, fighting to be heard over the voice of the lead, as well as the soundtrack.
The fight scene, however, is well done. The action is well choreographed and the sound design matches each hit. The blood effects, for a film of a presumably small budget, also look reasonably good. However, the graphic gore somewhat clashes with the previously established comedic tone. The editing is also fine, with classic signals such as dutch angles to indicate danger, though the camera work is occasionally rushed and untidy.
In review, Virtual Brutality is a fun concept, with some impressive special effects, a decently choreographed fight scene, and some good directorial ideas. Unfortunately, the bizarrely muddled script, poor dialogue, and clunky acting make it difficult to get on board with.
There is clearly passion infused here, but a lack of attention to detail, and narrative focus make it a perturbing watch, whether in this reality, or the virtual world.