If you’re active on social media, you might have noticed a lot of people talking about Annihilation, the new sci-fi horror film based on the book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. It didn’t get a cinematic release here, instead going to Netflix, but it’s still a great, creepy watch. The plot is pretty simple – a team of military scientists are sent into a restricted area where strange and terrible things are happening, and then strange and terrible things happen to them.
So why should you watch it?
1. Natalie Portman. She plays Lena, the lead character in the film. Lena is flawed. She makes mistakes. She’s a difficult character to like, but Portman makes her real and interesting.
2. It passes the Bechdel test. The team that goes into the jungle? All female. I can’t remember the last time I saw that. Five women in a canoe, being trusted to explore inhospitable territory. Yes please.
3. THE BEARS. All I can say is that a bear should not sound like that.
4. The weird scene in the cave. The ending of the film is difficult. Not everything is fully explained, and it’s left up to the viewer to figure things out. I don’t want to post spoilers so won’t go in to too much detail, but Portman in particular makes the oddness believable and disturbing, even on the small screen.
5. Premiering films like Annihilation on television means that those scifi fans for whom the cinema is difficult – people with disabilities, access issues, chronic illnesses – can be part of the first wave of excitement generated across social media by a film like this. OK, watching this on television might not be the immersive experience that you would get from a cinema viewing. But Science Fiction is a genre about difference, and therefore should also be a genre about inclusion. The more we watch films like this on Netflix, the more we will get. And we should all be there for that.
Jane O’Reilly would like to say that she’s the secret love child of Wonder Woman and grew up on a tropical island in the Pacific, but in reality, she grew up in the north of England where it was quite cold and if anyone had any superpowers, they kept them well hidden. After university and a brief and very misguided spell as a teacher, she decided it would be better for everyone if she stayed at home and looked after her children. But what she really wanted to write was a book about a space pirate in which she could blow things up .
You can find her on twitter as @janeoreilly, on Instagram as @janeoreilly2032 or at her website www.janeoreilly.com. Her latest novel, Blue Shift, is available from Waterstones, Amazon and in bookstores.