Movie: Science fiction movies are a popular genre, as are thrillers. Part of the reason is that it allows for the writer to convey a sense of wonder along with expanding the setting of a concept by pushing the envelope a bit. Not all science fiction is outlandishly advanced, like Firefly for example, and the best suspense stories always rely on the audience to fill in the blanks. That said, I got to see a little-known science fiction thriller originally made for British television, Oktober. The movie didn't rely on a huge special effects budget or CGI to tell it's tale and the director was also the writer of the original novel, keeping the story true to the original concept.
The story combines aspects of human greed, corporate malfeasance, and advanced medical technology to tell a story about a drug that had some interesting side effects, and a man attempting to prevent it from being used as a biological weapon. The lead character was a teacher on the make who ends up getting injected with the drug after trying to pick up the sister of a student he teaches. The drug somehow connects his mind with that of a pack of dogs and a group of men in comas that were subjected to it previously. When it's found out that he withstood the effects and may well be the solution to getting to work, the company sees him as a valuable asset. The company is about to have its sole profitable drug patent expire and needs the new drug to survive. With his life on the line, James Harper (Stephen Tompkinson) decides that he needs to keep one step ahead of the company, all the while figuring out exactly what the drug does, and what potential it holds.
Okay, the science fiction part is fairly lean here but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. The suspense part was pretty solid for a television show and it was darker than most of what you'd expect from a televised show. There was graphic violence (including people getting shot in the head with splatter effects) and the characters were better than average. The direction was also pretty good and the themes explored were done in such a way that I felt better educated after watching it. It wasn't something I'd list as a top ten release but I think it's worth a rating of Recommended for fans of the genre.
Picture: The picture was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The colors were slightly muted and there was some grain in most scenes but the edge enhancement was what bothered my eye the most. You could see halos all the time and these were no angels. I didn't, on the other hand, see any print scratches or compression artifacts although a touch of video noise was evident in a couple of scenes.
Sound: The audio was presented in stereo English with no subtitles or closed captioning for the hearing impaired. There were a few moments with separation but otherwise it was low budget in terms of quality. The vocals sometimes had a slight echo to them and the music was basic but overall, the two weren't bad (and the music was suitably eerie).
Extras: The extras on this nearly 6 year old release from British television are fairly weak. There was a short text Production Diary Notes which provided some background as to troubles the director had making the film, a short biography of the guy, and a filmography for his limited work. There was also a paper insert with chapter listings but that's it.
Final Thoughts: If it had an audio commentary and other better extras, along with a bit higher technical rating, I'd be suggesting this one as worthy of a higher rating. The story itself has been done before, although not usually with such a minimalist manner and low budget but the British excel at this form and the director has plenty of experience (having worked on the famous Dr. Who series for a while). If you're looking for an alternative to highly glossed over releases with this type of theme, you'll probably enjoy this one at least a bit.