Annihilation is a 2018 science fiction horror film taken from the Area X (the Southern Reach trilogy) series of novels by Jeff Vandermeer, a foreign author who lives in the Florida panhandle.
10 out of 10 stars. I wasn’t really a fan of the novels which spends too much time on the secret covert government agency called The Southern Reach. I also like that the film was much less terrifying than the novels which are very, very dark.
Lena is a Professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. She met her husband Kane in the army where he still serves. On the side she is having an affair with her married boss, the head of the Biology Department, Dan. As the film begins Kane has been missing in action for a year then suddenly one Saturday afternoon he shows up at their house and begins bleeding and convulsing with no memory of where he’s been. As he and Lena are taken away by ambulance, that ambulance is hijacked by several soldiers in black SUVs and they are taken to Area X, a secret location run by the government in the Florida panhandle.
The first person Lena meets in Area X is Dr. Ventress. She explains to Lena that Kane’s secret mission was to explore and investigate The Shimmer, an area that was created by some alien object that fell from space. It’s been expanding over a period of three years and every team they’ve sent in has disappeared and never returned. Kane is the first to make it out alive. But Kane is apparently dying from some unknown illness. Ventress convinces Lena that she can save Kane by joining the next exploration group led by her which will coincidentally be the first all women group sent into The Shimmer. The rest of the crew are Josie, a suicidal physicist, Anya, a unstable lesbian EMT technician, and Cassie, a depressed geomorphologist whose daughter died of cancer. They all have skills necessary for the trip and they all have personal reasons to put their life in jeopardy. Lena has by now realized that Kane volunteered for this suicide mission because he found out she was having an affair with Dan.
The five women set out into The Shimmer with no expectations of ever returning. And, in fact, in the novels they don’t. What they discover in The Shimmer is both beautiful and terrifying.
The novel series is very different than the film. The characters going into The Shimmer are not given names. They are referred to by their titles, so Lena is referred to as The Biologist. In the novels, Kane has long been dead and the biologist wants to know how he died. In the novels, Ventress, who is referred to as The Psychologist, has been hypnotizing the women, forcing them to do what she wants, including exposing them to a green slimy substance that changes who they are until they have morphed into monsters. And in the novels the monsters are absolutely terrifying and around every corner.
10 out of 10 stars. I wasn’t a fan of the novel series, but I loved the film. It’s beautiful to watch. There is one scene in which Natalie Portman is absolutely awful (when she’s painting and Kane comes home). I can only imagine that the director probably made her do that scene so many times she just said the heck with it.