By David Dent
This US/India/United Arab Emirates co-production is low budget sci fi cinema at its very best. It went down a storm as the opening movie at the 2018 Sci-Fi London Festival and rightly so.
Quint is a stem cell scientist and father of two desperately searching for a cure to combat a genetic disease threatening his childrens’ lives. The virus has already claimed his wife, who lies comatose in the underground facility where he is carrying out his experiments.
But at a time in the future when stem cell creation has been banned, Quint is forced to rely on the resources of fellow scientist Masterson, who requires favours in return from Quint which risk his work.
Chimera’s director, writer and producer Maurice Haeems (and it is amazing that a film so assured should be his feature debut) takes no prisoners when it comes to the expository side of his film.
The viewer is plunged straight into Quint’s scientific plight, and the combination of scienti-babble, multiple voices and Aled Roberts’ frantic but brilliant score almost threatens to overwhelm – in fact it isn’t until the 51st minute of Chimera that any explanation is offered regarding the story’s context.
But Haeems plays it clever and part of the pleasure of the movie is understanding the story elements and watching them fall into place. Indeed he appropriates the Frankenstein myth so stealthily that the film continues to feel original, although Quint is faced with the familiar dilemma of the creator as human being, particularly when it comes to potentially temporarily sacrificing his children for the greater good: “Be their dad and lose them? I’ll be their doctor and save them,” he rages at one point.
Chimera’s central character Quint (and if that name is familiar, the main cast are all named after characters from Henry James’s novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’) is admirably and grittily played by Henry Ian Cusick, but he’s supported by a fine cast, the only possible weak link being the normally reliable Kathleen Quinlan as Masterson, who plays her role rather like a Bond villain.
But this is uncompromising stuff, and the last scene leaves you in no doubt of the old sci fi staple, it’s not the science that’s bad, it’s the people doing the science.