The tone of jittery, contemporary American paranoia observable in such films as They Look Like People, Banshee Chapter and Almost Human throbs powerfully in writer-director Mickey Keating’s intimate Pod. Sensible, slightly uptight Ed (Dean Cates) recruits his spiky, slackerish sister Lyla (Lauren Ashley Cooper) to venture out into the woods where their brother Martin (Brian Morvant), a traumatised veteran with obvious psychological problems, has gone off the grid. Though Lyla and Ed irritate each other, they commit to the trip – only to find that Martin is crazier than they’d imagined, and claims to have an alien imprisoned in the nailed-up cellar of his tinfoil-sheathed cabin. It’s a simple tale, and genre conventions mean that Martin’s lunatic notions will most likely have some basis in fact, but the ebb and flow of distrust and kinship among the siblings makes for an emotionally gruelling ride, especially when the controlling Ed starts to worry that his free-spirited sister is more likely to join the whacko Martin in insanity than do anything to help him. When Martin takes himself off the board by suicide, noises from the cellar suggest that someone is indeed down there … and Ed decides to free whatever it might be. A passing sinister motorist called Smith (Larry Fessenden) represents conspiracy theories come to life, a man in black with an extreme method of clearing up a crisis. It delivers a spindly monster which could be an alien or a demon or the product of shared imagination, and there are moments of shock – but the film works because of the way Carter and Cates play off each other and the unbridgable gap between their characters. It also makes good use of the isolated, unwelcoming countryside.
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