Back in 2015 Neill Blomkamp posted some concept art to his Instagram for what would essentially be Alien 5. It was set to be his next film but sadly, Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant basically killed any hope of Blomkamp’s Alien becoming a reality.
Since then, Blomkamp has only done one feature film (Chappie). However, he has also created his own production company called Oats Studios, creating “experimental short films”. And holy shit are these shorts awesome.
The first, Rakka, is an alien invasion story. It feels like District 9 but with the grittiness and violence dialed up to 11. Sigourney Weaver has a role in the short as a human resistance leader named Jasper. It’s at least great to see that Blomkamp and Weaver got the chance to work together again after Chappie.
Rakka is bloody and beautiful, showing the hopeless aftermath of a reptilian-like alien species taking over the world. Blomkamp manages to make a world feel lived in and alive – not to mention terrifying with grotesque creature designs and nightmarish landscapes and buildings.
The second film, Firebase, transports us to Vietnam in 1971 as we follow a soldier possessed by the urge to hunt down and kill the enigmatic “River God”. Firebase feels like Predator and Apocalypse Now had a deformed baby. The visuals, the score, the cinematography and pacing are all excellent and you can’t wait to see what happens next.
Oats Studios just released another video a few days ago, a 3 minute short called God: Serengeti featuring Sharlto Copley as the big man Himself. This one is full of dark humour and is a great place to start watching.
The third short film, Zygote, was released today and this one just might be my favourite so far. Set in the Arctic Circle we follow two survivours (Dakota Fanning and Blomkamp regular Jose Pablo Cantillo) as they flee from a Cronenberg-type creature. This is body horror at its finest, the creatures design being both perverse and awe-inspiring, not to mention incredible sound design, too.
So far the three short films are about 20 minutes a piece, but they have no endings (Zygote is debatable). The films end without a resolution to earlier setups in the shorts. This may frustrate some (as it did me at first) but the artistic choice serves several reasons. For one, it adds a level of ambiguity to it which is something I can get behind. Secondly, it could serve as a tease for people who want to see the story continue. If more and more people throw their support behind the studio, they could continue the story. Or it could even get picked up by a major studio to do a full length feature release.
Short films are nothing new, but there is just something about what Oats Studios and Neill Blomkamp are doing that feels unique. It feels like we’re venturing into untapped potential in the filmmaker profession. The stories, full of inspiration from other properties, still feel new and exciting.
Film is evolving outside of movie theaters. Streaming services and short films thrown straight to YouTube are giving us easier access to content than ever before. It’s also allowing creative freedom for directors and storytellers to create what they want to create without interference from those higher up the industry food chain.
If you haven’t seen any of their content I HIGHLY recommend you check it out. They are unique, certainly experimental, but nonetheless visually engaging and shocking. These are shorts that I never knew I wanted. Now that I’ve got them, I can’t help but want even more. If these are what we get from Blomkamp instead of Alien 5, I just might be okay with that. Go check them out, you won’t regret it.
You can watch them all on Steam and YouTube at Oats Studios.