From the book of unsettling social science fiction/thriller stories, there is a rule that there should be a group of diverse individuals that are forced into a difficult situation where they challenge each other, ‘the system’, and themselves. These rules also include a big reveal, somewhere in the middle and right at the end, thus changing the individuals’ perspective for the better or worse. Domain follows these rules and still delivers something fresh.
A deadly virus has hit the world, most of the population has died but a select group of 500,000 people have won the lottery. The prize; living in a bunker sealed off from the world 30 feet under ground. This is ‘Domain’, network of bunkers all connected to each other, set to reopen when it is safe outside again. The bunkers have also been connected together in groups of seven. These seven people can talk together through screens, as well as share files on their Domain computers. This is just the setting up of the story.
The group of seven, all named after the city they came from is introduced through an argument. These seven people do not get along merrily, to the point where their self appointed leader insists they vote the loud foul mouth of the group out. After years of being connected to each other he is deleted off their screens, banning him to a possible lifetime of solitude.
Clear allegiances are have been formed, none stronger than between Denver and Phoenix. They say ‘I love you’ and share private chats late into the night and support each other in group discussions. But the fact that they only interact with each other through screens is more than frustrating. The introduction of an unnecessary love triangle not only hinders the story or the growing romance but also foreshadows the feeling that something bad will happen. Other events, such as the discovery that their banned group pal has disappeared also makes things painfully clear that there is a much bigger picture to the four walls and 6 screens they see that no one has picked up on. With the reveal of two of the groups past lives being oddly similar does also hint at a possible outcome and the ending feels slightly pantomime, especially when the architect of Domain appears on the scene carrying an huge over sized gun.
Domain had a strong beginning and middle but it is let down by the slightly over the top ending. Everything seems too perfectly in place to be found and then explained like textbook information. There are more than a few unanswered questions, such as the architect of Domain saying that one of the group was her biggest mistake, which seems oddly out of place.
Despite the flaws in the story, it is a new idea that is interesting even if it is similar to other science fiction stories of survival. The greatest strength the film has is the cast. They aren’t well known throughout the land and if they had been A list actors, they would be have distracted from the human elements of the story. Overall the science fiction part of the design was unusual which keeps you watching, wanting to know what happens next.
Dir: Nathaniel Atcheson
Prd: M. Elizabeth Hughs, Benjamin Kantor, Darren Uhl
Scr: Nathaniel Atcheson
Cast: Britt Lower, Ryan Merriman, William Gregory Lee, Beth Grant
DoP: Benjamin Kantor
Music: Jonathan Snipes
Running Time: 97 minutes
Domain premiered at the 17th Sci-Fi London Film Festival, running from 27th April to 6th May 2017.