Julien Neaves, Caribbean and Sci Fi Head Writer
Hey folks. Editor Jules here. My home country Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating 60 years of Independence on August 31, 2022. So I thought what better way to celebrate than to have a series of six articles celebrating Trini content.
And for our third part we will be ranking three local Sci Fi films and three local Horror films.
Now when it comes to film my home country is better known for dramas and documentaries, and there are not that many options when it comes to Sci Fi and Horror content. That said, these six films are all worth watching and do justice both to the country and the genre as well. With that out of the way here are my Top 6 TT Sci Fi and Horror Films:
#3 Sci Fi – The Fire Queen
So Damian Marcano’s 2018 period short The Fire Queen may be more fantasy drama than science fiction, but it’s a very good short so I wanted to include it here. The film follows a ghetto boy named Ska (Omar Jarra) who scrapes out a living as chipping ice and gambling. While on the run from some gun-toting undesirables named Pillar and Post he runs into Tilly (Nat Buchanan), a free-spirited uptown girl who discovers she has an extraordinary ability.
With interesting characters, great music and stylized visuals, The Fire Queen is very well done and a world that I would love the revisit.
#3 Horror – Stranger Tings
As we move into the first horror entry we have Aaron Caruth’s 2020 short Stranger Tings, which has no relation to Netflix’s mega popular fantasy horror sci fi series Stranger Things. Stranger Tings (no ‘h’) tells the story of a young man (Duane Millien) who is home alone playing video games when the electricity goes out. He then begins to experience very strange and inexplicable things. I could say more but I am keeping clear of spoiler territory.
With its tension, creepy atmosphere and minimal dialogue it is the perfect prescription for a dose of the creeps.
#2 Sci Fi – Ikarus
So this entry was not filmed in Trinidad and Tobago nor is the country a setting in the story. But it is written and directed by a Trini, (Shaun Escayg who has worked as an animator on films like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, creative director on video games Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Marvel’s Avengers, and animation director on acclaimed video game The Last of Us) and the cast includes Trini actor TT actors, Stephen Hadeed Jr (Pendulum, Moving Parts). Hadeed plays one half of a pair of scavenger siblings in New Orleans in the year 2220. When their plan for a big score goes awry they end up in a desperate fight for their lives against a ruthless enemy.
With strong visual effects work, solid acting and an entertaining, well-paced plot Ikarus is worth flying too close to the sun to check out.
#2 Horror – Douen
I’ve always thought Trinidad and Tobago’s rich folklore is the perfect breeding ground for film content, and thankfully a few local filmmakers have agreed with me. In Trinidad and Tobago folklore a “douen” is a mischievous forest-dwelling creature that appears as a barely-clothed child whose features are obscured by a large straw hat and whose feet are turned backward. According to legend the douen is the result of a child who died before baptism.
In the 2014 short Douen, written, directed and edited by Roger Alexis, a bratty boy named Jerry (Darion La pierre) is being babysat by Philomena Alexis Baptiste (the comedic, working class alter ego of actress Deborah Maillard). Jerry refuses to go sleep without a bedtime story and so Philomena decides to tell him a story about an even brattier girl named Cindy (Afiya Grannum) and a douen. This well-worn set up is used to spin a tale that is surprisingly scary and features fantastic and chilling visual effects work with the titular creature work by Phastraq vfx (Phastraq CEO Michael Richards appears as Cindy’s exasperated father). I highly recommend this one.
#1 Sci Fi – Tomb
Imagine taking 2001: A Space Odyssey, sprinkling in some Contact and then stirring in a futuristic Trinidad and Tobago setting and you would have some idea what you are in for with Nick Attin’s 2016 cerebral Sci Fi drama Tomb. Set in the year 2025 when several nations have banded together for the largest expedition into the furthest regions of deep space TT astronauts Commander Nelson Obatala (Kearn Samuel) and Commander Charles Mercer (Gregory Pollonais) join the expeditio. When Mercer sends out a cryptic distress call it is up to Obatala to rescue him. But what he discovers is beyond comprehension.
Less viewed and more experienced, Tomb is weird, trippy and has a pacing that whiplashes from mind-numbingly slow to thrilling. The visual effects are not the best and the plot so dense to be unwieldly. It shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t always work, but there is such a clarity of vision and obvious creativity that I kind of love it. And as a beacon of what can be done with local science fiction it shines quite brightly. Now local filmmakers, please go make more Sci Fi content. Signed: Your loving reviewer.
#1 Horror – Mightier Dan De Sun
In recent years Hollywood has been diving deeper and deeper into “elevated horror”, high art, high concept films like Hereditary, Midsommar, The Lighthouse and Mother! Well, 2020 supernatural thriller horror Mightier dan de Sun feels like a local elevated horror film.
The film is directed by Trevon C. Jugmohan and stars Arnold Goindhan and Kala Neehall as a poor Indo-Trinidadian couple. On a fateful night with copious consumption of alcohol dark secrets are revealed and supernatural forces intervene.
The two leads are fantastic in their roles, the cinematography is claustrophobic and the experience is a tense slow burn with a great pay off. If you’re looking for a jump-scare-a-minute then Mightier dan de Sun is not for you. But for an intense and unforgettable elevated horror experience, no local film is mightier.
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.
So that’s my list. And you can check out more great Caribbean content below: