Monday, October 10, 2022

Totally Tubey (but not, oddly enough, on Tubi)

For whatever reason, Amazon Prime seems to be the least discussed when it comes to horror. Perhaps it's because the service doesn't (to my knowledge) produce any original content in the genre. For a while, it seemed to have scooped up all the rougher cuts of '70s to '90s flicks deemed too unseemly by Netflix, but a lot of that content flowed over to Tubi. Today, I generally find recent low budget but professionally made horror on Amazon, and while some of it can be quite good, it never seems to generate the same level of discourse as a Shudder original.

All this is to say that were Meander streaming on Shudder, I think people might talk about it.

Quick Plot: Lisa is a sad waitress lost on a deserted highway. She reluctantly accepts a ride from a gruff trucker named Adam, only to connect a few dots quickly and realize he's responsible for the fatal stabbing of two women. Before she can tuck and roll, the action freezes and flashes into a very different setting.

Now dressed like a Hunger Games tribute trapped in the air vents of The Running Man set, Lisa finds herself an unwitting player in a mysterious game. A glowing shackle on her wrist includes a timer countdown every time she enters a new wing, where she has to scuttle like a New York City cockroach to safety before fire, acid, or barbed wire can destroy her.

But how much does Lisa want to live? Having lost her daughter in a tragic accident, she seems to be hovering on the edge even before the Saw-ish mayhem begins. Thankfully, she finds a strange, oddly moving friendship in the disembodied alien robot head that occasionally zooms in to help her out.

Meander is a strange little film with a rather clever trick of lulling you into what you think will be a throwback to the early 2000s boom of torture porn in greasy metal art design before slowly revealing itself as something far more thoughtful and almost cosmic. Writer/director Mathieu Turi channels some of Vincenzo Natali's Cube energy in how well he stages what's clearly a limited set into something sprawling. There are things here that I've never really seen before, and boy is that exciting.

High Points
Lead Gaia Weiss is mostly on her own, and while early stretches of silent crawling had me worried, her performance gradually builds. By the end, we understand this woman, even if we know virtually nothing about her life before the tubes. This film could have been a disaster without her

Low Points
While I appreciate the trickery of the film's initial bad guy setup, it takes quite a while for the film to sort of elevate, meaning many an impatient viewer may clock out early

Lessons Learned
If you want half a chance at surviving an alien tube torture chamber, make sure you maintain a slim physique that can fit between sparsely spaced barbed wire

The most boring job in the universe is that of a night watchman

Always be open to making new friends, even if they seem to be the crisply skull of an alien creature impaled on an otherworldly vacuum 

I didn't expect to be so moved by Meander, but what a pleasant surprise this turned out to be. It asks a little bit of patience from its audience, but if you're open to something both sparse and complex, I think you might be pleasantly surprised. Find it on Amazon Prime, where the occasional good genre film can indeed crawl through fiery torture tubes. 


  1. Oh! I hadn't heard of this one at all...
    It was a quick (claustrophobic) watch and satisfyingly weird without feeling the need to explain much of anything.
    Afterward I was thinking on how it evoked certain aspects of video games (based on something said at the end of the movie) without being about video games.
    And you're right... the actress was key to selling the whole business.

    1. So glad you checked it out! I really feel like this is getting lost on Amazon. It's not the greatest thing ever, but it's genuinely fresh, and it's really stuck with me. I never thought about video games (not part of my regular cinematic vocabulary) but that's a really fascinating way to view it, especially considering the 'restarts'.

    2. Exactly!
      Though most video games don't have you coming across the decaying corpses of your last attempted playthrough.

    3. But imagine how much cooler they'd be if they did!

  2. Just watched this with my horror movie club (it was my pick :) ), and I totally agree with your review. While it wasn't amazing, and while it certainly had a lot of Cube-isms, it was still surprisingly fresh, strange/interesting, and has me asking myself lots of questions now (which I like). It reminded me of an artsy, even weirder version of Cube, and with an even lower budget. I loved the gore (I was actually surprised by how gory it was), the rotted skull robot alien thing that was rooting for her (wtf), how genuinely claustrophobic a lot of it felt, and how it didn't over explain most things.

    It actually reminded me a bit of YellowBrickRoad (yet another time a DDH recommendation reminds me of another DDH recommendation) because of the lower budget and how it just got weirder and weirder and never actually explained what was going on. So that was neat too.

    It's funny, after years of reading this blog, I've got a fairly good handle on which films you like that I might also like -- I'm not into most of the silly horrors that you like, but there is a special segment of 'trying very hard to do some cool things while working within some big limitations' films that you and I both seem to dig. So once again, thank you for bringing these kind of films to my attention! I doubt I would ever hear of them otherwise.

    Now to find an analysis of what the religious imagery, Adam's name and the fact he turned into a monster, the reference to Lisa's lousy childhood, the "there is nothing after death"/you actually go to an alien world when you die, etc all meant.

  3. Yes! I can forgive a film a LOT if it's really trying something new. YBR and heck, The Exorcist III are messy and don't all come together, but by golly they work on so many other levels.

    So glad you enjoyed Meander. And yes, I think there's a lot more there that I didn't catch on first watch, in part because I went in thinking I was getting another quick Saw-y ride.

    Thanks so much for your comments. They really mean a lot!