Peripheral Review: Director Paul Hyett re-teams with Heretiks star Hannah Arterton in this rather disturbing science fiction story.
Bobbi Johnson (Hannah Arterton) is riding the wave of success following her smash-hit debut novel. The book has captured the imagination of the British public, and its heavily political stance has incited riots. Keen to capitalise on this infamy, her editor wants book two asap. The problem, Bobbi wrote her first book whilst addicted to drugs and now that she’s clean, she’s suffering from writer’s block. She is then encouraged to trade in her trademark typewriter in favour of a new state-of-the-art computer, one that will actually help her write. As Bobbi begins typing she soon discovers some deadly side-effects, and as the machine starts to take control, Bobbi must fight for her sanity, life and creative voice.
Director Paul Hyett started his career in the special effects world. His time as an FX wizard saw him collaborate with Neil Marshall on several projects. The last few years have seen him move behind the camera, and thus far his movies have shown a dynamic and varied range, both in terms of style and story. You just need to look at his last few projects – Howl, Heretiks and Peripheral to see this. Howl was a modern tale of werewolves hunting passengers aboard a broken-down train under a full moon, Heretiks was set in the past in an authentic former convent and told of demonic nuns. Now in Peripheral we have a near-future sci-fi tech horror that descends heavily into body horror. This constant switching can be viewed as either a lack of clarity of vision, a director still finding his voice, or as someone who likes to challenge themselves rather than getting stuck in a niche. Either way Peripheral is one of his more enjoyable and disturbing projects.
Our story unfolds almost entirely within the confines of Bobbi’s studio apartment. As the story progresses, the walls almost seem to close in and the claustrophobia sets in. The lack of location shifts command the viewer to focus in on Bobbi and her descent into madness. Hannah Arteron is present in pretty much every frame; it’s a lot to ask of any actor, but Arterton manages the feat. As Bobbi, she engages the audience wonderfully and easily draws you into her plight. This is especially true when the film ventures down the body horror route. Here things gets a little Demon Seed, a little Sequence Break, and a lot Cronenberg.
Peripheral tackles some interesting topics from man’s dependence on technology and its power to consume us, to the pitfalls of overnight fame and the dangers of fandom. Rosie Day (a Paul Hyett regular) plays a rather unhinged admirer, and her exchanges via VHS are reminiscent of Eminem’s Stan, but twice as uncomfortable.
Peripheral is a distinctly disturbing sci-fi entry into body horror. This is one claustrophobic horror thriller that will get under your skin.
Parallel review, Kat Hughes, October 2018.
Parallel was reviewed at the Arrow Video Frightfest Halloween 2018.