Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Eron Sheean
Writer: Eron Sheean, Shane Danielsen
Producer: Darryn Welch, Mike Dehghan, Cole Payne
Stars: Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tomas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall
A scientist discovers that his research is connected to an incredible medical breakthrough with the power to heal as well as to destroy.
Effective depictions of “body horror” create the palpable sense that the science of humanity is an unavoidable curse. “Contagion” made audiences hesitate for a moment the next time that they touched a public doorknob. Transformation and transmogrification films like those of David Cronenberg, whose name is virtually impossible not to mention in any discussion of the sub-genre, make the skin crawl with an itchy anxiety. A subconscious desire develops to shed the trappings of flesh as a prison for sickness, disease, and pain. It is this fear of biology being frighteningly uncomfortable that is regrettably missing from “Errors of the Human Body.”
Geoffrey is a research scientist whose real life family tragedy becomes both a curse and a blessing. When Geoff’s infant son is born with a rare genetic disorder that plagues his body with tumors, Geoff’s life and his marriage are thrown into turmoil. Ultimately, however, the unfortunate event drives his embryonic research into cellular regeneration. That research leads him to a staff position at a laboratory in Dresden, Germany, where he reconnects with Rebekka, a former flame and intern who has since made her own discovery in the field. That discovery is shared by a shifty scientist named Jarek. With the main players in place, the three researchers engage in a push-pull struggle to crack the mystery of the Easter Gene, which has the potential to give humans an extraordinary healing ability.
As soon as duplicitous motives and surreptitious experiments take precedence over responsible science and ethics, Geoff accidentally becomes an unwitting guinea pig for an unscheduled clinical trial. He then discovers the true origin of his protégée’s research, along with the unforeseen consequences of having his human body exposed to the untested Easter Gene.
The ongoing personal trauma of his son’s painfully brief life transforms into a new ordeal that consumes Geoff both physically and psychologically. The trouble for “Errors of the Human Body” is that Geoff is the only one consumed by it.
Canadian Michael Eklund excels as Geoff. German Karoline Herfurth is exotically appealing as the object of everyone’s affection. Of Icelandic descent, Tomas Lemarquis looks the part of a distrustful antagonist. And the always reliable English actor Rik Mayall leads the research team as the laboratory’s director. Each performance is precisely where it needs to be, but there is an alienation transferred from the international cast, as well as from the German setting, that turns the viewer into an expatriate.
The photography is fantastic. The coldness of the research facility and its surrounding German countryside is conveyed so well that it is arguably a detriment. It works in tandem with the droning hum of the audio design to create a hypnotic and bleakly oppressive atmosphere, but it is still one that feels distant as opposed to immersive.
Each of the characters is like his/her own island in the storyline’s sea, and this stranger in a strange land sense extends outside of the screen. Even as what qualifies as the hero roles, Eklund and Herfurth play characters with sometimes ambiguous morals and questionable motivations. The emotional distance in their personas makes them not entirely relatable, and they are missing the connective tissue to put the viewer in their skins. And that is where the audience needs to be in order to empathize with the infectious feeling of being trapped in a body trying to destroy itself.
The message of “Errors of the Human Body” is lost in its artful presentation. The final revelation of the film is both cruel and heartbreaking, although the feeling of the film overall is that it is a morality tale perceived as “body horror,” and it is not convincingly chilling as a thriller. Separated from the drama onscreen, the viewer is forced to watch events unfold as an outsider instead of as a participant. “Errors of the Human Body” ends up being a passive experience, when it could have been a frighteningly engrossing drama.
Review Score: 60