There are a lot of superheroes out there. Like, a lot. So Robert Monde’s debut feature The Subjects is impressive in that it takes a fairly standard idea (ordinary people getting superpowers through science!) and turning it into something genuinely different.
The Subjects takes place entirely within one room. Eight strangers take a pill and are observed in a locked room for eight hours. From all walks of life and nationalities, the characters find themselves arguing or growing closer, developing strange symptoms, and trying to survive and escape.
The trapped in a locked room conceit isn’t new, nor does it need to be. Monde makes good use of it here, and the cast do well with the material they’re given. The characters often veer into lazy archetypes: the misogynistic, violent, lower-class English ex-convict Giggles (Frank Magree) and the vacuous, spoiled, American party girl Jenna (Emily Wheaton) are the biggest offenders – there’s nothing inherently wrong with having these types of characters, but the writing is more than a little heavy-handed at times. There’s also plenty to like about the ensemble cast – Charlotte Nicdao does well at keeping her nerdy character, Lilly from being a caricature, while Nikki (Katharine Innes) and Phil (Tosh Greenslade) both come across as the most real people in the film.
Before the actual superhero abilities start kicking in, a lot of the conflict in the room feels like manufactured drama – if you’re going to have a locked room, your characters and your story have to be top-notch, and this film falls a little short at times. However, it finds its footing as it progresses, making it a worthy entry into the superhero as realism genre. While some of the special effects might be a little chuckle-worthy, overall it’s a decent debut feature which does make you think about what superheroes might actually look like in the real world.
You can download The Subjects from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or Vimeo (all can be found on the website.)