Earlier this year, Neill Blomkamp – the man behind the brilliant District 9 and the criminally underrated Chappie – founded Oats Studios: an independent studio which has allowed him to spread his creative wings and distribute the results for free on YouTube.
So far, said results have been staggering. Volume 1 includes a trio of demented clips including an ’80s-style cooking show; Zygote, a horror set in an Arctic laboratory which owes a huge debt to John Carpenter; and a bizarre little sketch in which Sharlto Copley plays God. But perhaps the most striking short to come from Oats Studios so far is Firebase – a more nightmarish vision of the Vietnam War than even Francis Ford Coppola could have dreamt up.
It’s unusual for Blomkamp to look to the past rather than the future for inspiration, even if his frenetic shakycam style proves perfect for filming jungle warfare. But things soon take a turn for the weird. We find ourselves thrown headlong into a mystery involving parallel universes, Cronenbergian body horror, and a nightmarish monster called the River God who makes soldiers explode, Dr Manhattan-style.
Of course, in typical Blomkampian style, there’s also a political message bubbling under the surface that’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull. The River God is revealed to be an ordinary Vietnamese man, pulled into the conflict by the tragic loss of his family; one could easily draw a parallel to the disenfranchised youths fighting for any number of extremist causes.
Whether or not there’s enough material to turn Firebase into a feature film, it – like the rest of Oats Studios’ output – serves as a reminder that Blomkamp is a true visionary. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
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CAST: Steve Boyle, Robert Hobbs, Nic Rhind, Tyler Johnston, Pat Mastroianni, Carlo Yu
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
WRITERS: Neill Blomkamp, Thomas Sweterlitsch
SYNOPSIS: While fighting the Vietnam War, both sides face a new kind of threat that neither of them were prepared for.