(A.k.a. REZO ZERO)

Tolbiac (Clovis Cornillac, SCORPION; THE SERPENT) awakens in the heart of a dark and wet tunnel. He's naked and trembling. He staggers to his feet and makes his way through the ankle-deep water towards a flashing light in the distance.

The light is coming from a torch, gripping in the hands of a rotting corpse. Tolbiac takes the torch and continues his quest, climbing up the tunnel's walls towards the sounds he hears above.

When Tolbiac reaches the top, he finds two large fans and a gate. Unfortunately the gate is locked. A series of female holograms appear behind Tolbiac and welcome him to Eden Log. They thank him for his concerted efforts and advise that his journey has earned him citizenship within their world. The gate unlocks and a confused Tolbiac walks through it.

On the other side, Tolbiac is greeted by more darkness and flashing lights, and what looks like lots of scattered, discarded machines and appliances. He explores the plantation as the holograms return to inform him that his "work below" means he can now be accepted into their fold. He is to build the plant to his wishes, after which he will receive a call allowing him to join Eden Log at will.

Still confused (as was I), Tolbiac continues to explore his new surroundings, wandering slowly around the dark labyrinthine tunnels. He stumbles across a bearded man strapped to a wall in a Christ-like pose, who warns him that the world above has been destroyed and Eden Log's promises of a Utopia cannot be met. Tolbiac, who we learn has lost his memory, walks on as the man continues to scream in pain behind him.

After a brief episode where Tolbiac is trapped in a white cube while people taunt him in silhouette form from the outside, he explores some more and stumbles upon a laboratory. A scientist lies dead. Tolbiac accesses the dead man's memories by computer and watches a hologram image of his last moments: the man argues with a female voice, insistent that the secret of Eden Log's motives must be kept at all times - people are not ready to learn the truth.

Tolbiac wanders some more, occasionally hiding from masked men who he assumes are hunting him. Intriguingly (for Tolbiac, that is), one of the men hints that the person they are pursuing built the maze himself - this ties in with the dead scientist telling his female aggressor they need to find the plant's architect to complete their mysterious mission. Could the amnesiac Tolbiac be the architect?

More to the point, what are the horrible mutations he starts running into while trying to stay one step ahead of the masked men? All becomes a little clearer, slowly, when Tolbiac is captured by one of the masked men and taken upwards

EDEN LOG is another addition to the current trend for low-budget sci-fi movies coming out of France (DANTE 01; CHRYSALIS etc). Shooting his feature debut, director Franck Vestiel films with an eye for saturated style that evokes everything from the ALIEN films to DARK CITY and beyond.

The tunnels are dark and often effectively claustrophobic. The darkness helps hide the film's low budget constraints too, although the set design and costumes are convincing when allowed to be seen. It's not an original look, but a very stylish one: everything looks futuristic and dilapidated at the same time, lending a post-apocalyptic ambience to proceedings.

The story is confused and unsatisfactory. There's too much padding with Tolbiac ambling through tunnels in silence - it soon makes the film drag. A lack of character in Tolbiac and a lack of dialogue conspire to make us unsympathetic to his plight: consequently, there's never a feeling of suspense.

The film is a little heavy-handed in its attempts at being "arty". It clearly revels in it's alluding to evolution (as Tobliac is told he will soon do) and rebirth (Tolbiac making his way naked through the tunnel and towards the light; many visual metaphors along the way). There's also religious metaphors to be found too, the brush with the Christ-like figure being the most obvious.

Which is all good and well, but EDEN LOG doesn't really go anywhere. At no point does it grip, and when the end comes and we learn the "secret" is impossible not to be hugely underwhelmed. Someone shoot the composer too: the score is sleep-inducing.

EDEN LOG looks great, but ultimately is boring. It would be passable as a 20-minute short shown at a film festival. But stretching it out to 97 minutes is just invoking cruel amounts of tedium on viewers.

The film looks good in an uncut 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The virtually colour-free palette Vestiel worked with has been served with a sharp and well-balanced transfer.

I watched the film in French 5.1 audio, and the mix was a good one. Optional English subtitles (for what precious little dialogue there is) are available.

The film can also be viewed in an English language version. I understand that this is a version of the film where the actors actually speak in English (as opposed to a dubbed version). I didn't check this out I'm afraid as, well, one sitting was enough.

There is no scene-selection menu but the film does have 12 chapters.

An animated main menu includes access to extras, which start with a decent 29-minute Making Of documentary.

In this, principal cast and crewmembers speak retrospectively about the shoot. In-between, we're treated to behind-the-scenes footage. Occasionally, the screen splits so we get interviews and footage combined. It's a slick and engaging watch.

A 90-second teaser trailer is in English language, and is presented in non-anamorphic 1.78:1.

EDEN LOG often looks wonderful. Vestiel clearly has a keen eye for striking visuals and some of the ideas contained within are good. But I suspect he'd be better suited to directing music videos because, for all it's finesse, EDEN LOG is evidence that he can't hold an audience's attention for longer than 10 minutes (he also co-wrote it, with Pierre Bordage).

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Momentum Pictures
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review