After watching the short film “Enigma” by independent filmmakers, Jason and Matt Shumway, I came away with a greater appreciation for independent sci-fi films. Don’t get me wrong, I’m from the era where the channel formerly known as SciFi had low budget goodness on every weekend. I delighted to see some of the films they had acquired like the Dungeons and Dragons sequel, “D&D: Wrath of the Dragon God,” and the action horror film “Darklight.” But even before the change of name the quality of the movies they would get seemed to diminish.
I bring this up because “Enigma” is far superior to most things they put on the channel barring “Battle Star Galactica,” “Caprica,” and “Eureka,” just to name some of their good stuff. On the movie front however, the channel is sorely lacking, unless “MegaGiantSuper Shark vs. UberGiganticUltra Piranha” is your type of film.
Clocking in at just under 45 minutes, this sci-fi thriller of a short hits all the right beats and has some impressive visuals to boot. This was a labor of love and it shows. Jason Shumway handled the live action side of the film, while Matt handled the animation side. The result isn’t Hollywood caliber, but it’s pretty damn good. I’ll say this; the ships, sets, and cgi all look very good for the modest budget. The acting, took some getting used to though, and with only 45 minutes to get to know the characters it was a little daunting. That said the actors did a good job with the material, which really wasn’t much. This is a fast paced mystery thriller that starts off a little clichéd and yet really throws a curve ball towards the end. But it’s really the look of the film that truly impresses.
The DVD has a behind the scenes and you get some background on how the film came about. The sets were already completed and the brothers had known someone working on them and got to visit. They were immediately inspired. And rightfully so. The sets look semi-dated, but then again we’re all used to green screen sets and it’s refreshing to see a full on spaceship set so well done for something low budget. Also the set designs (that aren’t on the ship) and cgi backgrounds and effects are all very well done. The military briefing room is very simple, but then the effects pop out and wow you.
Back to the characters quickly before I wrap this up. Everyone, for the most part, had a very real world feel. Sure they tried to play to stereotype, with the warn Captain and his beat up ship badly in need of repairs, and the uptight military escort for the super dangerous alien prisoner, but they succeeded in keeping them grounded. The Captain doesn’t have Harrison Ford or Nathan Fillion’s good looks, but he has their attachment to their ships. His crew (what little there is) loves the freedom of not working for “Fleet,” but still long for a better ship. We’ve all felt that way about a job. In the short time we get the chance to know the characters they aren’t complete genre cut outs, but they aren’t far beyond them. Enigma is great little movie that I think needs to get a little SyFy exposure; just so more people can appreciate it. Say what you will, people still tune into the channel, and any exposure is good exposure. If they keep this caliber of work we may be hearing from them a lot more.
Jason Shumway, Matt Shumway (director) / Jason Shumway, Matt Shumway (screenplay)
CAST: Ventura Alvarez … Cpt. Nathan J. Rhys
Rachel Balzer … Gatekeeper
James Bell … Military Investigator
Iris Corliss … Eidolon
Brian DeCato … Security Officer