Eden Log is one of those films. First-time director, low budget, extreme genre elements and a crew that wants to prove itself. In other words, it has all the right ingredients for a superb genre film. From here on out it will probably only get worse for director Franck Vestiel (think Aronofsky, Nolan, Kitamura and many others), so all the more reason to enjoy Eden Log for what it is.
After only five or ten minutes into the film you will probably be able to name several of its influences. There are flashes of Tsukamoto's work in there, a couple of very obvious nods to Alien (and Giger) and a big Cube-like déjà vu, but most of all the film reminded me of Blame! (the manga). Something in the overall design, chaos and lack of context that is very close to the pinnacle of cyberpunk.
The premise behind Eden Log is extremely simple. A man wakes up in a pool of mud, not knowing who he is or where he is. There's only one single pulsating, bright light illuminating the room, as he struggles to get up and climbs over a corpse. The opening five minutes consist mainly of grunting and growling as our main character tries to take in his surrounding. This is where his journey begins, as he tries to find out where he landed and what his purpose might be.
Telling more about the plot would be spoiling some of the fun, so I'll just say that the film follows a very typical, almost game-like, course, with clues scattered around and levels to be conquered. The story does pack some nice surprises though, and the level of mystery is kept positively high so you'll probably keep guessing and wondering until the very end. By then, Vestiel has a pretty cool ending waiting to finish off the film in style. One of these rare cases where the clue of the film isn't a disappointment reflecting on all that was good before it.
All nice and well, but the selling point of the film lies elsewhere. From the first strobe-lit frames until the bombastic finale, the film looks absolutely stunning. Not black and white, but extremely desaturated, the image is constantly dark and menacing, contrasting with very bright lights creating a perfect play between light and shadow. Add the superb set and prop designs, great creature effects and very smart of use surroundings, and what you get is 98 minutes of pure visual bliss.
Apparently this was all done on a shoe-string budget. Even though it never shows, there are clues, like the lack of overly bombastic explosions or effect-laden scenes. It all remains pretty basic and low-key, apart from the ending which is the first big scene (and which cost the most, I presume). But like many of these low-budget films, creativity and craft prove to be more than enough to overcome any budget problems.
Another strong point of the film is the haunting soundtrack. Lots of grunting, atmospheric and dark ambient overtones and quite some distorted bits make for a lot of tension. The score for the film does a tremendous job of keeping the tension locked and even enhances the atmosphere coming from the images. The screams of the creatures and thumping from his surroundings are also pretty effective, creating a really tight-knit experience for the viewer.
Vestiel might be a first-timer, but he's had quite some experiences working on other genre masterpieces like Them, Dante 01 and Saint Ange. It's a good thing he decided to make his own, as Eden Log easily outclasses everything he has worked on before. Eden Log is genre film heaven, featuring a superb audio track, insanely pretty visuals and a good, mysterious outline that keeps the tension going. Genre filmmaking at its best and most intense.