‘Self-destruction’: HBO has hidden in its catalog an interesting curiosity full of action and parallel worlds
The origin of ‘Self-destruction’ is in a short titled ‘What’s in the Box?‘directed in 2009 by Tim Smit and Steven Roeters, and acquired some cult status for its slight but clear plot similarities with the ‘Half-Life’ saga. It came to be considered, in fact, the announcement of a possible sequel to Valve’s game, since in its footage, a ten-minute chase filmed in the first person, the famous Black Mesa incident of the game is mentioned.
However, it was soon revealed that the short was nothing more than a nod to video games, but its fast-paced rhythm and the quality of your special effects, created under a very low budget, gave Smit the opportunity to shoot a feature film adaptation of the short. This one arrived in 2017, under the English title ‘Kill Switch’, and with a star in the making as the protagonist (Dan Stevens, fresh out of ‘The Guest’ and ‘Colossal’, and about to release ‘Legion‘).
With the Spanish title of ‘Self-destruction’ that feature film arrives on HBO without making too much noise, but the truth is that it is worth recovering. Although it has the occasional problem with staying too faithful to the short’s first-person chase approach, its visual and thematic findings, even from modesty, are remarkable enough to deserve some attention.
The plot excuse, this time, is the creation of a tower that is capable of generating a parallel universe identical to ours, and from which resources can be extracted for an exhausted planet. Will (Stevens) has to transport a cube through that replicated world, The Echo, while flee from drones and soldiers in the pay of the corporation that has devised the ruthless system, Alterplex, and that it has suffered a resounding sabotage in the replicated reality.
Incessant action in parallel worlds
‘Self-destruction’ proposes an interesting idea, that of the parallel world created exclusively for an original universe to feed on it. And thanks to that, the first images of Will in that encore world are disturbing: they almost seem to have come out of a post-apocalypse zombie, with the devastating feeling that always accompanies images of a city absolutely devoid of life.
Soon, Will will be forced to flee from the drones that are chasing him and we will learn the details that give the character a certain not very necessary background (he is helping his sister take care of her son, a boy with special needs). The film then becomes a constant chase shot in the first person that, although it does not reach the levels of delirium of the tremendous ‘Hardcore Henry’, if it passes at the minimum speed that can be required of a film that is, essentially, a non-interactive video game.
Undoubtedly the most interesting elements of the trip are those that are scoring the chases, more than the shootings themselves: the vehicles falling from the sky as if raining mega-constructions (with certainly competent digital effects for the tight budget that the film possibly had); some apocalyptic detail, like the victims of an accident grimly arranged in order on the floor; or the very well designed interface of Will’s helmet, which allows us to save excessive discursive moments, or give way to them without lingering too much.
‘Self-destruction’ is not round: to have such a simple script, sometimes it is excessively confusing, and it is difficult to follow the motivations of the characters and the intentions of the corporation. But as a carefree sci-fi miniature, Smit’s film delivers and offers a few moments of genuine multi-dimensional tension. That is already a lot more than what more ambitious proposals get to pinch.