Dec 24, 2023
Ellis E. Fowler
John F. Thomas and Ellis E. Fowler
Ellis E. Fowler, Omari Washington, Zaria Simone, John F. Thomas
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. At some point in the future, at least we must assume it’s the future as there’s no introductory information to help ease the viewer into the scenario leaving us to glean whatever information we can from the rather substandard dialogue, an all powerful military AI named Arch-One has gone rogue and has mobilised its robot army to seek out and destroy mankind. The robots, which are audibly described as drones, are connected to a hive-mind and Arch-One by a wireless link and this link needs to be severed if our plucky heroes are to stand any chance of getting out of the situation alive.
What situation is that? I hear you cry – but to be honest it’s not exactly clear. The four supposed soldiers we’re following are busy crouching down in an office in an undesignated building for, as far as we are told, absolutely no reason. They talk about how they might get out of the situation and hint badly through perfunctory dialogue about what might happen to them if they don’t. During this really bad scripting we are also introduced to Capt. David (who does have a last name, it’s just never mentioned), a Captain apparently only by designation. Nobody has any military gear on, there’s no rank, symbols or insignia to identify them as soldiers and frankly it seems like there’s not been a day of military training experienced by any of the four of them. It’s literally just three dudes and a girl hiding behind a desk.
So, with all of this assumed set-up you’d think that it might be time to get into the scenario proper, maybe with a little bit of backstory or perhaps some expository information to help deepen the world that we are now exploring. But you’d need to think again. Instead what happens is that two of the characters start having a domestic right in the middle of the mission, apparently out of nowhere, and start having it out over past difficulties in their now ended relationship. As Erik (Washington) and Britney (Simone) keep arguing and begin shouting at each other, Justin (Thomas) then sticks his oar in as Britney’s new squeeze and the heightened argument just gets louder and bigger as the men stand up and face-off against one another. Just remind me – these are supposed to be a crack team of soldiers in a military organisation, right?
While the relationship thread takes over the entire middle half of the film and any actual plotting is sidelined into the peripheries, Capt. David (Fowler) just lets them have at it, only coming in to quieten things down when the rather ineffectual robots get too close with their infra-red eyes. Apparently they don’t have good audio receptors to pick up on the shouting even though they explicitly verbally communicate with one another. When the overarching plot does eventually kick back in all interest and integrity in the short film has been lost as everything we’ve seen and heard up to now has been completely farcical.
Helming the entire operation of Emotical and giving himself a starring role as Capt. David is Ellis E. Fowler. He wrote and produced this project along with John F. Thomas (who plays Justin) and also took on the roles of editing, visual effects and producing some of the music. With all of this, Fowler likes to credit himself as a ‘creative polymath’ although he’s really stretching things a bit there as he shows a bare minimum competence in any of the roles he takes on, especially script writer and story editor, let alone showing that he can excel at any of them. The direction is serviceable and the visual effects useful, if a little easy to come by, but the rest of the production is invariably amateurish and only serves to furnish a bad story with a less than adequate mode of presentation.
In the end there is one line about getting ‘those codes to headquarters’, which I suppose will have to do in terms of plotting and motivation for this nine-minute piece, but nothing really makes sense in Emotical and there’s not an awful lot of skill or intent to help the audience engage. If you’re a veteran of the Syfy channel and are used to badly written science fiction then Emotical might give you nine-minutes of diversion from your life but for everyone else this is definitely one to avoid.