With the recent French films Oxygen and Meander, female leads waking up in confined sci-fi themed space seems to be some kind of weird new subgenre. Following the same premise as the aforementioned films, TIN CAN depicts a post-apocalyptic dystopia that definitely seems to take advantage of our own pandemic to create a minimalist Sci-fi film with a symbiotic parasite. Making its North American premiere at Fantasia Fest, writer/director Seth A. Smith tries to combine the fear of claustrophobia and plagues in his film TIN CAN, but the plot overcomplicates the execution.
Quite a bit of story starts us off with the exposition dump in the first act. A plague ravishes Canada and makes everyone live in fear of a fungal-like infection named Coral. In order to travel, people must wrap themselves from head to toe in plastic to keep out the deadly toxins. A slime-loving parasitologist named Fret (Anna Hopkins) makes it her mission to battle the deadly contagion, but her efforts reach an abrupt end when she becomes kidnapped and wakes up in a small pod about the size of a port-a-potty with limited light. With tubes going in and out of her body, she surveys her meager surroundings. She finds no escape and her only comfort comes from the voices trapped near her in similar containment units. Hopkins does well with filling the screen with feelings of claustrophobia and panic but hidden within her pleas she also seems to express a hint of understanding and recognition of how it will get worse. A lot of emotions come out in the first act, so the opening segments of the film do more to set up the tone and atmosphere than to create character development or story.
A lot of the movie takes place in Fret’s ‘tin can’ which seems to offer a pretty limited development of character and plot, but visually the film offers some imaginative scenes and some fun body horror. One of the most memorable shots comes from Fret ripping her intubation tube from her face. A visually gagging moment the CDC should consider turning into an ad for anyone who refuses to get vaccinated. Aside from witnessing Fret in captivity, the viewer also gets privy to her backstory with the inclusion of flashbacks. Outside of the can, we see Fret’s life with her partner John (Simon Mutabazi) and the events which led to her capture. Unfortunately, the minimal movement in the claustrophobic space creates a fairly slow-moving story with sparse interactions. I think the story would make for a wonderful novel because we could explore more of the mind of the main character. Smith definitely presents an interesting story, but when translating the ideas from paper to screen the components do not all match up and we get more of a guessing game than a descent into a psychologically-fueled sci-fi film.
Navigating TIN CAN proves difficult because the story takes a non-linear approach and while some plot points get answered in the flashbacks and the reveal in the third act, a fair amount of questions remain unanswered. Honestly, the capsule portion of the film proves the best part as Hopkins gives an amazing performance that will intrigue the viewers, but the surreal-looking second half of the film only further confuses the direction of the plot. The film attempts to tell two stories: one focuses on Fret’s personal life and the other deals with all of humanity. But ultimately, the distinct plotlines fail to smoothly synch up.
Viewers with claustrophobia or nosophobia will feel quite unsettled by the tight spaces and deadly contagion, but without these fears in place, people will find difficulty in caring for the situation. When it comes to world-building, Smith does fantastic work with his plague facility and showing the dystopian world outside where brutal guards gather the infected and the exposed. However, the complex plot does not match the detailed and well-thought-out environment. And even with the limitations of the low budget, the set design pulls off some really impressive feats. However, plague stories are now becoming overdone and we could all use a break from deadly diseases.
TIN CAN had its North American premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.