Monday, June 23, 2008

The Eden Formula (Starring Jeff Fahey)

The Eden Formula begins with an airborne shot of Los Angeles at night, lights flickering blue like a thousand tumbling turns on the freight train to pornsville. Shining up from the below, shifting into blurs, the mass of glaring blue retches forth, consuming the black of night. A strong tone of bluish valour echoes visual symphonies at the floating camera as it passes overhead. It’s a graph on which are plotted nodes of becoming, blue pockmarks giving words to thought, noiselessly lurching towards a final blackening.

This opening is not simply an attempt to justify the cost of hiring a helicopter for the day. Nor it is a chance to squander the final energies of the special effects team, to give them something to do while the titles-man finishes choosing fonts (oh Helvetica, oh Verdana, how are we to make these decisions?). This sequence establishes the mood of the film, declaring artistic intentions and gesturing to stylistic devices to be witnessed in abundance later. In fact, the entire film can be discovered laid out in these fleeting moments of introduction, a narrative exposed to the most perspicacious of eyes, nooks and crannies of story lit by anticipatory light. The colour of that light? The most scorching blue one could ever envision.

These images of night time cityscapes, glaring blue sparkling in a lightless gulf, anticipate the arrival of Jeff Fahey. They foretell his presence in the confines of this chunk of cinema we know as The Eden Formula. They have the responsibility of preparing the humble viewer for the reams of blue splendour awaiting him or her. Less than thirty seconds in and Fahey has already stolen this film and claimed it as his own!

Industrial terrorists and dinosaurs, corporate greed and broken fraternal bonds, these are the themes running through The Eden Formula. Fahey plays Harrison Parker, a research scientist working at a large company located in downtown L.A. He develops a serum – the eponymous formula – that can reproduce living cells, allowing for the recreation of organisms. Any organisms, it seems. For Fahey’s paymasters have taken it upon themselves to use this formula to create a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which they house in the basement of their corporate headquarters.

Fahey’s not long in describing to corporate peon Dee Wallace Stone his moral misgivings about the situation when a group of industrial terrorists led by Tony Todd arrive to steal the formula. They seize control of the central security facility and, by electronically unlocking every door, unwittingly unleash the dinosaur. Those pesky terrorists! As if Todd hadn’t caused enough havoc having spent much of the 90s running around in the guise of the Candyman. Well he’s met his match with Fahey. Todd seems to find the blue radiance of Fahey so blinding that he’s forced to spend most of the film wearing sunglasses. Even though he’s indoors. And even though it’s night. Such is the hurt dealt the eyes by those unwilling to submit to Fahey’s glistening sky hue.

Our hero must prevent Todd and co from acquiring the formula, escape the building in which he and his colleagues are held, and sort out the dino issue. A series of problems for sure. But not the sort of problems from which Fahey would shy away. Far from it. It transpires that Fahey was in Desert Storm and is a Special Forces badass with a host of hand-to-hand combat skills to go alongside his PhD in genetic engineering. Further complicating events, we have Fahey face-to-face with his old military superior, none other than Tony Todd. It’s a web of relationships to rival the most convoluted of soap operas. Here Fahey and Todd must square off in the arena this Sci-Fi Channel Original calls its narrative, battling across eighty minutes of zesty cinema nourishment.

Characterisation enters new levels with Fahey’s juggling of attributes: erudition and ingenuity mingle easily with the ability to kick a man in the sternum. One moment Fahey leads his pals to stairs they never knew existed, thus facilitating their escape – even the security guard who undoubtedly walks these paths on an hourly basis was oblivious to their existence. Next he’s killing a man by a mere whack of the boot. Fahey is the holder of traits not possessed by others; perhaps he siphoned off their qualities the night before filming, I don’t know. There is a scene in which a woman is shot through the shoulder and Dee Wallace Stone attempts to help her by tying a rag around her elbow. Clearly Fahey’s erudition remains for the most part his own.

The sinister corporation is a staple of the sci-fi universe, from Aliens and Resident Evil to Fahey’s own Lawnmower Man and Absolute Zero. They demonstrate our fear of large corporations, of that curious mix of the palpable (the people, the offices, the plants) and the abstract (the stocks and shares). Material and immaterial collide in the corporation and this produces anxiety. (Naturally the general iniquitous nature of a body that strives solely for profit also causes anxiety, or should do at least.) Unfortunately most films see fit to personify corporate malice, anthropomorphising the source of pain and suffering – usually in the guise of a snivelling corporate lackey. This isn’t symbolic representation. These films point to actual individuals pulling strings, shady chairmen dancing immoral pirouettes, bloated finance directors willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to meet ends. Sure there are bastards atop the corporate chain willing to plumb the depths of human decency, but take them out and the system would still function as it does.

It’s the system of money and shareholders that pains Fahey in The Eden Formula. He mumbles sadness and regret at how his good work’s been appropriated by his corporate overlords. His breakthrough was never intended to produce a gigantic killing machine but the powers above insisted upon something to awe the shareholders, preferably something big and carnivorous. Fahey is the site of exploitation, his proletariat lips pursed in a gesture of defiance. A bulwark fighting monetary sleaze is Fahey, a man whose labour and creative power has been co-opted. He’s the everyman held captive by a system built to privilege the few over the many. His is an exploitation driven by patriarchal avarice and the abstract flows of capital.

Away from the struggle against big business, and indeed the sight of Fahey, there are several moments of tedium. Firstly we are given various scenes of Dee Wallace Stone driving around L.A. trying to persuade cops that there’s a dinosaur on the loose. They don’t believe her. Then there’s the dinosaur in question rampaging through the metropolitan landscape, eating hobos and interrupting film shoots. Both the dino and Wallace Stone prove to be dreadfully boring spectacles. Alas everything seems diminished in the absence of Fahey. But is it not the case that banal scenes in a Jeff Fahey film are in fact Fahey’s modesty? Could it be he suffers terrible guilt at his omnipresent awesomeness and insists upon an injection of shite on occasion? Could that explain the sewer scenes in Lethal Tender, the kung fu in Ghost Rock, or the entirety of Darkhunters? The sporadic seconds of Faheyless phenomena in The Eden Formula all point in this direction.

I bet when John Carl Buechler made Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College he thought he’d never top the achievement. And with good reason: Ghoulies III is a fantastic slice of comedy-horror and by far the best Ghoulies flick. But with his Fahey collaboration he has done just that. Admittedly, Fahey is the main cause of this and had he starred in the aforementioned film it would remain Buechler’s best.

Fahey’s grand synthesis with cinema continues unabated through The Eden Formula. Its jerky camera, which makes everything seem like a point of view shot, is only confirmation that it is through the eyes of Fahey that we see the world. Just remember, when we watch a Jeff Fahey film, we genuflect in the glow of a media marvel that will never be surpassed.


Post a Comment

<< Home