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Errors of the Human Body: Film Review

Errors - P - 2013

The Bottom Line

An underheated mad-scientist tale cares more about emotional baggage than thrills.

Opens

Friday, April 19 (IFC Midnight)

Cast

Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tomas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall, Caroline Gerdolle, Yusuke Yamasaki

Director

Eron Sheean

A Dresden research center tinkers with world-changing genetics in Eron Sheean's mood-heavy debut.

A mad-science film more interested in exploring its protagonist's emotional baggage than exploiting the monster-movie potential of his research, Eron Sheean's Errors of the Human Body aims at an audience so steeped in horror cinema, it doesn't really need to be scared to take interest. Commercial prospects are poor for a picture that saves anything like a thrill for its final act, though its seriousness and mood may win a few fans among genre devotees.

Michael Eklund plays Geoffrey Burton, a researcher attempting to restart his life after losing an infant son to a new genetic disease and watching his marriage break up in that tragedy's aftermath. Dedicating his career to developing pre-natal tests for "Burton's Syndrome," he takes a job at a Dresden laboratory where his work is revered.

Here, though, other chapters of Burton's backstory wait to haunt him: His onetime student and lover, Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth), hopes to rekindle both aspects of their relationship, while her estranged research partner Jarek (Tomas Lemarquis, whose bald pate and intense gaze evoke a long line of "mwah-ha-ha" laboratory villains) has taken their research in scary directions.

That is, directions that would be scary in another film: Jarek's plan to use mosquitoes, ticks and similar critters to spread vaccines instead of disease has obvious unintended-consequence potential, but Errors doesn't want to explore that. Instead it spends its first hour on laboratory turf wars and relationship drama, paying particular attention to Burton's sad fixation on his ex-wife, who has moved on. Eklund, who resembles a sedated Ethan Hawke, invests ample angst into the performance (a dourness matched by the film's design and photography), but his intensity isn't balanced by developments in the slow-building script.

Climactic events involving a cell-regenerating "Easter Gene" and a bite from a stolen lab mouse give the film's makeup effects team something to do, but never pay off in narrative terms; the story's half-baked O. Henry conclusion is as lifeless as the wunderkammer-like set Sheean uses to frame it.

Production Companies: Instinctive Film, High5Films

Cast: Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tomas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall, Caroline Gerdolle, Yusuke Yamasaki

Director: Eron Sheean

Screenwriters: Eron Sheean, Shane Danielsen

Producers: Darryn Welch, Mike Dehghan, Cole Payne

Executive producers: Chris Ouwinga, Bernadette Burgi, Tony Rollo, Cathy Rollo, Ross Bryan, Howard Bryan, Joel Miller, Anna Howard, Nathanial Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Rainer Bruns, Justus Peter, Suzanne de Passe, Madison Jones, Sanny van Heteren

Director of photography: Anna Howard

Production designers: Karin Betzler, Katrin Gerheuser

Music: Anthony Pateras

Costume designer: Claudia Torsiello

Editor: Patrick Wilfert

No rating, 97 minutes