In Taka Tsubota’s post-apocalyptic short, four high school boys are stuck together holed up in a forest cabin after most of the world has been overrun by giant, spider-like creatures. Despite the horrors outside, one of the boys named Alan has to contend with the monsters with whom he shares the cabin. And there is only so much more that he can eventually endure.
Overlapping dialogue and imagery from different points in time, Tsubota uses a somewhat non-linear style of storytelling to catch the audience up with what has transpired. Dark silhouettes, and barely lit figures convey the teens’ increasingly desperate life of survival while also underscoring Alan’s grim situation.
The theme of human beings’ animal instincts when the situation allows has certainly been explored in literature and movies before. Bullying is just one form of that animal nature which does not need an apocalypse to manifest. But even in the world of Tsubota’s Canary, Alan’s tormentor Nev flexes his muscle in attempt to perpetuate his “big-man-on-campus” bravado in a tiny cabin after civilization has collapsed . But Tsubota smartly reminds the audience that the bully is weak; putting on a front of machismo and swagger to hide his own fears. Additionally, he distinctly points out the role of Nev’s enablers who don’t have the courage to defend Alan because they’d rather he be the victim than them.
However, Alan is at a breaking point and must make a choice: become as savage as the creatures from which they are hiding, or remain civilized–even human. It is a pivotal moment well acted by Barron Leung who displays the anguish of being a victim and the hard choice before him. In a time where there are no rules or teachers, he could do what his heart most desires. But unlike his cabin-mates, Alan seemingly makes the courageous choice to be better. This does not mean, however, that his tormentors will go unpunished.
Allowing sound, light, shadow, and emotion to carve out a microcosm of barbarity occurring between four teens in a cabin at the end of days, Tsubota’s Canary is an understated genre update on the theme of humankind’s stubbornly uncivilized nature.
Canary will world premiere at the LA Shorts International Film Festival on July 24th.
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