In Chimera, a brilliant but disturbed scientist freezes his children alive, to arrest the progression of their deadly genetic disease, while he races against time to unlock the secrets of immortality encoded within the DNA of the Turritopsis jellyfish.
There were many points in Chimera, that I found myself saying, "yeah, this is so very wrong". Mixing dirty money and dirty science with dirty people, makes for an assuredly sullying - self compromising - combination. And yet, as a father myself, I can't say that if placed in the same situation, with the same tools and knowledge and capability at my disposal, I wouldn't do the exact same thing.
This is a film of grey areas. From its provocative scenarios, flawed but well-meaning characters, and the moral ambiguity that permeates the entire narrative, there really is no comfortable assurance that the position taken, is the right one; it simply does not exist here. I think this is what makes Chimera so effective, that much of it's horror being a product of the positions its characters are forced to take. Following that, the often horrific fallout that comes by way of their decisions to reinforce them. I was simultaneously repulsed by, and empathetic to, their plights. I wanted Quint to save his family, I wanted the research to bear fruit in order to benefit all affected parties, and I wanted Charlie to save humanity from the inevitability of death.
But holy shit, like this? I'm not so sure.
At the very least, while Chimera's story had my mind and soul twisting into multiple knots, my eyes on the other hand, were fixed focus and giddy with the gorgeous looking set design, lighting, and overall cinematography. This is a beautifully filthy film to say the least. Cold blue frosty labs and the pulsating electronic glow which fills them, the steamy amber-lit corridors of the inner sanctum, and of course the disturbingly grotesque test subjects themselves. It all comes together to create a nightmarish tapestry of flesh, technology, and suffocating atmosphere, and it doesn't stop there.
The characters themselves (at least, the ones which aren't dead) also add extra color to the film's narrative palette. Henry Ian Cusick leads the way, turning in a performance that perfectly captures the passion and madness his "Quint" should be exhibiting given the daunting task he's set forth for himself. Jenna Harrison wears a mask of dejection, allowing glimpses of misplaced anger and infatuation to peak through from underneath. Erika Ervin is intimidating, Kathleen Quinlan plays devilish shrew almost too good, and Lawrence Sampson's "Luke" is pitifully disgusting. Really, the entire cast (with the unfortunate exception of the children) do a fantastic job, and kept me enthralled from start to finish. Speaking of which, the wrap-up is a hard left turn I honestly didn't see coming, and features a jaw-dropping punctuation of a finale that sat heavy on my mind even as the end credits rolled across the screen.
Suffice to say, Chimera is a special kind of "horror", one that - like its own subject matter - refuses to fit into or be defined by clear genre delineations. It's profound, intelligent, earnest and only slightly marred by a smallish budget and questionable performances from the youngest members of the cast. None of that however, stops this from being absolutely worth your time while also putting first-time director Maurice Haeems, on the maps of film lovers alike.