The dystopian strand of science fiction often works best when its speculation about the degeneration of society is not too far removed from the realities of the present day. New Syfy offering Hover is mindful of this fact and deserves credit for the topicality of its sources of inspiration. The film, written by and starring Cleopatra Coleman, takes two ‘hot topics’ from the world of science and technology and relocates them in a disturbing near-future America.
As agriculture begins to fail around the planet and food shortages become the trigger for explosive social unrest, the survival of farming in the vast rural hinterlands of the US becomes critically important. Private corporations, that provide airborne drones to assist in the cultivation of crops and protect farms from raiders, have come to play a key role in ensuring the country remains fed. In the real world, drones can be used for any number of purposes: for leisure, as camera platforms, as floating weapons systems and as the tools of espionage and crime. These devices have already become a familiar form of ‘flying machines’ featuring right across the genre of speculative fiction.
In parallel with the proliferation of the farm-hand drones, companies are offering painless voluntary euthanasia to the terminally-ill members of farmers’ families. The concept of ‘assisted dying’ remains contentious in our own society, with cases of patients taking their own lives regularly making headlines. It’s an idea depicted on-screen here with the moral ambiguities unaffected by the development of new hi-tech.
When compassionate end-of-life care assistant Claudia (Coleman) and her empathic mentor John (Grant), who are transported between clients by sentient driverless cars, start to question whether the drones are as benign as VastGrow suggest, events take an unexpected turn and hitherto hidden agendas are exposed.
Far more serious and restrained in tone than many of the network’s other titles, Hover is most notable for its consistently downbeat and subdued atmosphere, against which the surprisingly gory and explosive deaths contrast sharply. Director Osterman does not attempt to oversell the scale of his limited budget tale, and Coleman makes for a likeable and thoughtful heroine. There are some decent drone point-of-view camera work and some credible everyday future tech on show.
But little effort is made to evoke the seriousness of humanity’s predicament, the farm skills of the drones are left sketchy, and in the end, the menace posed by the story’s villains does not make much logical sense.
HOVER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MATT OSTERMAN / SCREENPLAY: CLEOPATRA COLEMAN / STARRING: CLEOPATRA COLEMAN, SHANE COFFEY, CRAIG MUMS GRANT, BETH GRANT, FABIANNE THERESE, RHODA GRIFFIS / RELEASE DATE: JULY 3RD (US), TBC (UK)