An interesting sense of style carries the weight of this sci-fi adjacent trip.
Synopsis: After experimenting with mysterious substances, four chem students find themselves addicted in the worst way possible: they’ll die unless they take more.
Capsules follows a group of chemistry students who regularly use their chemical know-how to utilise a variety of drugs. Allowing them to party and study late, the group are caught in a cycle of dependency and increasingly bad decisions. Their desire to unearth new sensations means that when they find a mysterious vial of drugs they think nothing of popping the pills. Unfortunately, these new drug effects are more unpredictable than any of their previous experimentations.
There is a message about addiction and dependency within the narrative with one notable quote being that ‘one is too many and a thousand never enough’. It is this thread that secures the uneasy paranoia of the film’s strongest moments and sets the overall tension of the group’s relationship. That we meet them at a point where they are deep into the cycle allows them to be presented as flawed, but still human, a challenge the performers meet well enough. As a group, they are consumed by their drugged hazes, but still cling to nostalgia, declaring the 1960s a better time for drug-taking. Throughout, these are characters longing for a different life, yet unable to break from their current patterns. Beyond the sci-fi concepts, it is this that leaves the scariest impression.
At the outset, the dialogue feels slightly stilted as performers settle into their roles. The film requires you to buy into the concept that the group would be cavalier about their drug choices, rather than selective (especially given they could conceivably gain access to other drugs) and that initial awkwardness hangs over some of the runtime. As this settles and the drug’s effects take over this feels less of a concern. A slightly too intrusive soundtrack also creates some early discomfort.
The stylistic choices within the film are of note, especially when the film is working as a chamber piece featuring the group in the apartment. Upside-down camera shots, altering the perspective of the viewer along with the characters adds a much-needed immersive quality. Even when the action ventures outside the apartment there is a distinctly closed, claustrophobic feel, throwing them into unnaturally lit spaces that allow the richness of colours to take precedence. The early panic of the apartment is never quite matched by these scenes and there is a sense that a shorter film focused solely on the action within those walls could arguably be a more potent, thrilling experience.
In addition to the camera work, the title cards that appear throughout the film add to the feel of an experiment, counting down doses, timings and other information that echoes the way the characters work through their predicament. The throwback feel of the cards also speaks to the nostalgia the characters hold so dear, lending a cohesion between the surface presentation and deeper themes.
At only 70 minutes long, there are still moments where Capsules seems to lose run out of steam, but the compelling visuals and technical elements sustain interest more than they lose it.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Capsules is released through Cranked Up Films.