A nonsensical sci-fi comedy, Soft Matter is Jim Hickcox’s bizarre directorial debut thatventures into avant-garde territory. Sharing similarities with The Mighty Boosh and The Greasy Strangler, there are plenty of quirks within this low budget oddity that’s due to be released later next month. With a unique visual style and a slather of oddball comedy, Soft Matter is a film which will bewilder many and entice very few due to its peculiar brand of humour. Kooky, queer and a little hard to define, one can only describe it as a pastiche of sci-fi horror movies from the 1980s.
Set in an abandoned hospice, two scientists have been conducting cruel experiments in the search for immortality. Splicing the DNA of various sea creatures to no success, severe side effects have started to take their toll on many of the former patients. With fishlike transformations becoming the norm, Grist and Kriegspiel continue to pursue their practice until they mistakenly unleash a furious sea god. Angered at their quest for immortality, the sea god warns them to give up on their research or face the deadly consequences.
Elsewhere, two street artists named Kish and Haircut plan to open an art installation at the very same building. Believing that it may be haunted, they hope that it’ll be able to take Haircut’s ghost inspired graffiti career to the next level. Unfortunately for them, however, they soon realise that all is not what it seems and end up having to work with some unlikely allies in order to survive. With a synthy soundtrack and a dash of bold coloured lighting, Hickcox has been able to mould a lurid homage to the old-school horror films of yesteryear. Containing intentionally bad costumes and practical effects, it’s clear from the get-go that Soft Matter is a film that you’re not meant to take too seriously.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of fun to be had with many of the jokes falling flat and too much time being dedicated to the scientists. By far the weakest characters, their scenes tend to suck all life out of the film and with underwhelmingly poor performances to match, it ultimately becomes a chore to watch. At a mere 72 minutes long, Soft Matter somehow manages to outstay its welcome, feeling more like a promising short that has been stretched way beyond its limits. Admittedly, there are times when glimmers of creativity shine through although these moments are few and far between, leaving the majority of the film to feel vacantly dull.
A surreal take on the sci-fi horror genre, Soft Matter never really manages to live up to its potential. With small bursts of ingenuity scattered throughout, it’s disappointing how none of the action is able to maintain one's attention. It may find success with a minority who are desperately searching for something a little leftfield although one can’t help but think that it will end up attracting those under the influence of certain narcotics. Overall, it's a brave and bold attempt at a surrealist comedy that unfortunately misses the mark.
SOFT MATTER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JIM HICKCOX / STARRING: RUBY LEE DOVE II, HAL SCHNEIDER, MARY ANZALONE / RELEASE DATE: MAY 22ND (US VOD), TBC (UK)