It’s a treasured experience when a ‘WTF’ film can leave you with reactions and emotions that supersede the unexplained when you can leave the theatre even a little satisfied not knowing all the details. In Annihilation, five women, each heavily armed with unreliable weaponry and particular expertise, enter “Area X” as part of a research mission conducted by the mysterious Southern Reach company. “Area X” has been an uninhabited coastal town overtaken by vicious jungle and wildlife for some time—and no one really knows why. With every step closer, the team seems to get further from any answers. Any real answers, at least.
But what is real and what is fake doesn’t matter. Plagued with pseudo-scientific dribble, Annihilation managed to free itself from all the questions and semantic criticisms the McGill biology students behind me felt were necessary to ask after the film, like “Why don’t the cells behave like such-and-such?” and “Where’s the story?” Granted, these observations would have some merit to me if it were any other movie. For instance, any character development (or lack thereof) is meant to be seen as intrinsically linked to the ever-changing environment the women belong to, as opposed to a reaction of said environment. And conclusiveness is spared in favor of introducing new fantastical features, which like its source material, might leave a few irritated. Not to forget the opening of the film, which somehow managed to spoil one of the biggest revelations without really spoiling anything, or referring back to it at all. I want to say that it shouldn’t matter, but only as an exception, just this once.
What sets Annihilation apart from other films of the same genre, as well as the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, is the abundant thrills—which can be difficult to execute maturely in science fiction. It is a terrifying thing when the audience never truly knows what’s about to happen next, hoping that it’s never as bad as what happened before. As a horror fan, I can say with confidence that for this I was sufficiently giddy the whole way through. Sometimes, it means more to superficially enjoy a movie than to be answered to. Aesthetically, the vivid, alien landscapes and flora were enough to pull me in and never let go. And although the film suffered from too many lens-flares and questionable special-effects choices, it was never too much as to draw away from the experience, but enough to underscore the surreal. Annihilation is both somber and fun, gentle and menacing, and thankfully, not as smart as it lets on. 7.0/10