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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD. Metrodome.

RobotropolisIf there’s one thing we’ve learned from science fiction, it’s that you can’t trust a robot. Sooner or later, they are going to rise up against their fleshy masters, and that’s exactly what happens in Robotropolis, where the robots who are responsible for running corporate-owned New Town go on a killing spree.

All this happens in front to television cameras, as a news crew are broadcasting a live report from the futuristic town. With it’s sterile buildings and stark white interiors, New Town already feels rather dehumanised, so it’s unsurprising that it would be a place where robots would be in control. But soon, the machines we first see taking kids to school or helping out on the production lines rise up.

When a robot guns down a player during a game of soccer, it seems as though it might be a rogue machine malfunctioning, but soon all the robots are murdering everyone they come across. As the crew (Graham Sibley and Tonya Cornelisse) and presenter (Zoe Baylor) fight for survival, the producer (Edward Foy) is wildly excited at the story unfolding on screen, and the head of the multinational conglomerate (Lani John Tupu) desperately tries to control the damage – both physical and public image wise – wile trying to work out what has caused the robots to go on the rampage.

This is a tight little story that manages to be pretty original, thanks in no small part to the interesting narrative structure – much of the first part of the story is told through the TV broadcasts, which are presented in a rather more authentic manner than most movie renditions of television news. Don’t think this is another ‘found footage’ type film though – instead, it cuts from the broadcast footage to a more straightforward narrative, while taking a few sly digs at the ethics of TV news producers who see death and disaster as ratings and award opportunities.

The film moves at a decent speed – there’s no sluggish build-up to events; instead, it more or less hits the ground running and keeps up that pace throughout the tight running time (credits roll after 77 minutes). The film is more about dread and tension than all out action – most killings take place off-screen or are shown in a rather matter of fact manner (though the film isn't afriad of breaking the taboo on child killing), while the soundtrack mostly avoids the expected pounding music in favour of more unsettling droning. This surprisingly downbeat feel continues to the open ending that lets you fill in what happens next yourself – a satisfactorily ambiguous final shot allows the unseen moments to go wither way.

While some of the CGI shows signs of the low budget, director Christopher Hatton deserves praise for taking what could’ve been a fairly generic concept and making it into a surprisingly effective story. Robotropolis is a hugely impressive sleeper of a film, and well worth seeking out.





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