Uncanny (2015)

The “Uncanny Valley” (which gets referenced briefly in Uncanny) is the theory that when, say, a robot or AI program becomes too realistic – but not quite perfectly human – that people tend to find it disturbing, even creepy.

And Uncanny brings in a lot of that creepiness in a deceptively simple three-player drama about a young tech journalist who’s been given an exceedingly rare opportunity to interview a reclusive inventor working in his own private secure lab, with almost unlimited resources.  There she meets his mysterious lab assistant who just happens to be named Adam…

A lot of reviewers have dismissed this film as a copy of Alex Garland’s brilliant (but equally disturbing) Ex Machina.  While both films share a very similar setup – two men and a girl in a secure facility, one of them an outsider and another an android that can pass for human – Uncanny was, in fact filmed first.  However, it took  Matthew Leutwyler’s Indie production a lot longer to get its special effects finished.

This is an excellent, meticulously crafted film that stands on its own despite these similarities.  It starts with a subtle hint of wrongness about David Kressen and his lab, and builds to a deeply disturbing climax.  Like Ex Machina, Uncanny explores some of the more disturbing questions about Artificial Intelligence and how we might relate to it.  And it does so in quite different ways.

And perhaps what makes these two films so disturbing is that we can see the increasing role computers and AI play in the world around us, as they call us up while we’re in the shower, suggest books and videos for us, and pump custom-tailored ads into our favorite websites.

Perhaps we’ve all taken up residence in the Uncanny Valley.


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