Genre : Science Fiction
Director: Matt Osterman
Craig muMs Grant
It is easy to write off Syfy movies. Since 2001 the TV channel have been producing original television movies of, let’s just say, varying quality. Full of genre film oddities, movies like Sharknado, 3-Headed Shark and Frankenfish are more appropriate for YouTube reviewers than the Academy Awards. Knowing their reputation, the Syfy Channel has taken the first steps in growing their reputation and launched Syfy Films. Teaming up with indie studios they have begun distributing independent films such as Atomcia, Realive and 400 Days. Their latest attempt is the drone-based sci-fi feature Hover.
In the near future ecological conditions have caused food shortages all around the globe. Thanks to technology from the Vastgrow corporation, drones have been able to slowly rebuild the farmland. Traveling the heartland are two care providers Claudia (Cleopatra Coleman) and John (Craig muMs Grant). When John dies suddenly, Claudia is led on a quest uncovering the truth behind the drones and their connection to a mysterious illness.
Coming out of Hover what struck me most was how un-Syfy it was. Trying it’s best to avoid the comparisons to movies like Lake Placid vs Anaconda, Hover is the studio’s attempt at serious science fiction. Directed by Matt Osterman, instead of going for over-the-top laughs it tries to tell a more serious tale about corporations and technology. And for the most part, Osterman is able to pull it off. His second collaboration with Syfy Films (his first 2015’s 400 Days) he brings a more original take on science fiction by avoiding neon lights and skyscrapers to focus on rural America. And instead of green screen spectacle the focus is more on the mystery being unraveled. Whether due to budget constraints or not focusing on flyover country is a refreshing change of scenery. That isn’t to say it completely avoids all science fiction tradition. Featuring a score from Polish composer Wojciech Golczewski (We Are Still Here, Beyond the Gates), Hover has the kind of synthy-laden soundscape reminiscent of It Follows and Upgrade. Hover also covers the long classic sci-fi trope of questioning technology and its impact on humans. Once again, it’s a departure from the more typical Syfy Films plot and it works out well. That isn’t to say Hover completely outruns it’s TV channel roots.
Despite the cast and crew’s attempts to do something different from your typical Syfy movie they couldn’t quite pull it off. While the ambition is there the money isn’t and it shows. Cutaways and stock sound effects are a regular occurrence whenever a character dies. The CGI isn’t much better with everything looking more like green screen mixed with basic photoshop than anything else. Admittedly there are practical effects which look better. Thankfully the script doesn’t require the drones or futuristic effects too often and instead focusing more on the ideas. In fact, Hover does a good job making the drones feel like a threat and a big reason for this is Cleopatra Coleman.
Most famous for her supporting roles on The Last Man on Earth, not only is Coleman the movie’s star but she also worked on it as a writer. And I have to say, the Australian actress does both jobs quite well. Covering some well-worn territory Hover‘s script is fine if predictable at times. That said I did appreciate how seriously it took itself. Don’t expect any Lavalantula fourth wall breaking, this is pure science fiction. Where she really shines is her performance as Claudia. Playing a more subdued character than we’ve seen before she still has a warmth to her; a warmth particularly evident when acting against Craig muMs Grant. As her mentor John, the two have great chemistry. Mostly seen traveling together the two had a very natural and friendly repertoire between one another. It’s a shame we can’t say the same for the rest of the cast. Aside from Coleman and Grant the supporting cast is just plain bad. Most of the remaining cast not named John or Claudia being little more than clichés painted in the broadest of strokes. Making it worse are the actors who fit less appropriate for a movie about fear of technology and more like one-off characters on an episode of Z Nation. It isn’t exactly film breaking but it can distract nevertheless.
At its best science fiction can be a reflection of real-world issues. No matter how far into the future it takes place or the aliens that show up movies like Ex Machina and shows like Black Mirror are beloved because they hit audiences in a way giant summer blockbuster don’t. Surprisingly Hover is able to hit on similar beats. Ideas such as fear of technology and corporate greed are handled in an interesting if familiar way. The first hour or so is an interesting, if predictable, slice of paranoia. But as the film heads towards its conclusion a mix of plot holes, overacting and effects that make Ghost Shark look like Insidious. The only thing keeping the film completely falling apart is the screen presence of star Cleopatra Coleman. While Hover may not be the next sci-fi classic it’s worth seeing on the Syfy channel and Coleman shows a lot of potential in whatever she does next.
Links : IMDB
Hover is now in theaters and VOD and Digital HD on July 3, 2018.