rakka

Last month, director Neill Blomkamp officially revealed his Oats Studios project, a series of short films that would be released for free on YouTube and Steam (a wildly popular platform for PC games). The first of those shorts, titled Rakka, is online and you watch it right now.

As you’d expect from a film directed by the man behind District 9, Elysium, and Chappie, this short is about as NSFW as you can get…unless your workplace is perfectly fine with harsh language and extreme violence.

Rakka is the inverse of District 9 in many ways – an mysterious alien race has arrived on Earth, but they’re not refugees. They mercilessly conquer the planet, enslaving survivors through psychic warfare while conducting horrible experiments on others. It’s nasty, brutal stuff, complete with all of the disturbing body horror Blomkamp has become known for in his other work. Naturally, the short focuses on the struggling human resistance, a doomed group that gives off real The Terminator vibes.

And hey, the great Sigourney Weaver is on hand to play a resistance leader, giving this some instant genre movie prestige.

If you have no love for Blomkamp’s work and his very specific aesthetic (grisly violence + ragtag future technology), Rakka isn’t going to win you over. But if you found anything to enjoy in his previous movies, there will be at least something to interest you here. This doesn’t have the polish of his feature length films – how could it? – but there’s an energy and nerve here that serves the 21-minute running time just fine.

Between this and his early, pre-District 9 work, I wonder if short films are where Blomkamp’s real talents may lie. There’s not much time to introduce characters or tell a complete story, so he’s forced to let style lead the way. The results are certainly interesting. There’s more life and creativity here than there was in Elysium, that’s for sure. Would Chappie, an overlong mess, have fared better as a short film? Rakka has me thinking “yes.”

Rakka ends with more questions than answers and much of the plot unresolved, but with two more shorts coming from “Volume 1” of Oats Studios, there’s definitely a lot more where this came from. If these do well and establish an audience, Blomkamp has made it clear that he’s ready to embark on a second volume…one that will charge money for the films and actually allow him to make a profit. It’s certainly an interesting concept and the use of Steam as a short film distributor is a bold step into untested waters. I’m very interested to watch where this goes.

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