Norfolk seems the last place on earth where the apocalypse could start. In Sholto Crow’s comedy-drama Martin, however, a man’s quiet treasure-hunting expedition on the beach unwittingly awakens three gigantic robots of mysterious origins. Their laser-gun arms promptly unleash destruction and chaos. Our hero, his afternoon ruined, narrowly escapes the village – but possibly not for long.
Juxtaposing idyllic scenes of English coastal villages with futuristic robots of doom is disconcerting and strangely delightful, and the small touches of painfully ordinary human life add wry humour to the fantasy. The animation style here evokes watercolours and paper cuttings, which lends charm to the initially pleasant, later apocalyptic scenery.
No dialogue is heard throughout the film’s four-minute run-time. The only character aside from background figures is Martin, the solitary, nondescript treasure-seeker turned harbinger of doom. He bumbles along, only exhibiting more than routine behaviour when he sets off the first robot.
As the automatons rise around him and begin wreaking havoc, Martin’s nonplussed indecisiveness is incongruous – it is as if he has merely broken a friend’s favourite mug or stepped into the middle of a secretive conversation. This is both familiar and hilariously relatable.
Crow calls this work, which he made in his shed, “semi-autobiographical”; as there have not (yet) been any android attacks along the Norfolk coast, it is assumed that the specifics are fictional. However, the verisimilitude to the humdrum solitary expedition, the tranquil coast, and Martin’s ordinarily inappropriate reactions to the apocalypse makes the far-fetched events almost believable and immediately win audience engagement.
While Martin bypassed festivals and went straight to Vimeo, its appealing visual style and tongue-in-cheek tone captivates in under five minutes. Crow has an eye for the hilarity of mismatched human reactions – were it not for the death robots, this gem could be about any embarrassingly inconvenient discovery.
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DIRECTOR: Sholto Crow
ANIMATOR: Sholto Crow
COMPOSER: Sholto Crow
SOUND DESIGN: Sholto Crow
STORY: Ian Poynton
SYNOPSIS: A treasure hunter accidentally unleashes an Armageddon-like robot attack on the Norfolk coast.