Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Future is Now: Hive Mind

Call it Fairness Doctrine Day. Doug Trench is about to give the final broadcast by a conservative/libertarian radio talk show host. That is because he is the last free man on Earth not assimilated into the collective consciousness known as Hive Mind. It’s the Mahatrenchy, the Doctor of Democracy vs. the ultimate manifestation of group think in Ladd Ehlinger Jr.’s indie sci-fi film Hive Mind (trailer here), now available on DVD and screening in select cities not yet fully absorbed into the collective oneness (which pretty eliminates New York).

He was once a friendly rival to Limbaugh and Levin, but now Trench is on his own, holed up in his bunker with his Wolfman Jack transmitter and a dwindling supply of whiskey and cigars. Since both are about to run out, it seems like this will be Trench’s swan song. However, he can at least send out a ghostly warning to any intelligent life in space about what went right with mankind and how it all went wrong.

Like many bad ideas, the source of mankind’s downfall was initially embraced by celebrities. It was called i-mind. Seen as the logical evolutionary step following ipods and i-phones, it was an a.i. nano device to be taken internally. At first, i-mind was just an easier way to download music and the like, but it would eventually link everyone into the Hive Mind collective—everyone except the perennially vigilant Trenchie that is.

Like all collectivist forces, Hive Mind hates the existence of a free agent like Trench, loose in the world doing ecologically dangerous things, like wearing clothes. Wise HM did away with such bourgeoisie trappings long ago, simply turning off its constituent cells sensitivity to heat and cold. Therefore, the naked women lurking outside Trench’s undisclosed bunker are actually a dangerous portent, much in tradition of the execution scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.

It is safe to say Trench will not go quietly. Yet despite its necessarily talky nature, Hive is a surprisingly effective indie genre film. As was also the case in Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool, Ehlinger capitalizes on the claustrophobic bunker setting to build the dramatic tension. He also shrewdly employs a dynamic camera and some quick cuts to prevent the film from looking static or stagey. However, some of the visual gags, like the Hive Mind’s running commentary or the ironic status indicators on Trench’s web-feed, can get a bit distracting.

While Ehlinger’s screenplay is certainly provocative, its success is wholly dependent on Greg Trent, who is in every scene as the defiant Trench, with only Julie Collins’ occasional cold, snotty Hive Mind voice-overs to play-off of. Like all successful radio talkers, Trent has the talent for entertaining an audience just by talking into a microphone. Though his Trench might seem a bit exaggerated in some of his opinions, he is never dull. In fact, he is a surprisingly compelling presence in the film.

If the one-man one-set Hive builds a following, Ehlinger and Trent could easily adapt it into a live show and take it on the road (but probably not here). Some will surely dismiss it out of hand when they get a whiff of its philosophical inclinations, but Hive is a challenging, smartly produced indie picture. It is worth checking out.