[Panic Fest] THE FORE-MEN Review – Existential Loneliness is the Heart of Adrian Bobb's Sci-Fi Short
Like some Lovecraftian science-fiction nightmare, out of the fog emerges The Fore-Men. Written and directed by Adrian Bobb, the short film takes place after a mysterious “time-compression” event has caused environments from the past and future to collide with the present. Vibrating with rich and dense lore, it reads as a love letter to founders of the sci-fi and cosmic horror genre — authors H.G. Wells and the ever-problematic H.P. Lovecraft both come to mind — while hinting at inspiration from the aesthetics of David Lynch and the motifs of Mike Flannagan.
Samantha Martin (Sophia Walker) and Roger Faide (Gabriel Darku) are both scientists studying the remains of a dinosaur named Sally when suddenly, an unknown “time-compression” event occurs. We meet them, evidently weeks after the event, as we’re keyed into bits and pieces of the mechanics of the world –– as approximated by Roger’s anxious theorizing. The information we receive is difficult to grasp — particularly the technical jargon — even when spelled out for the audience by the characters as they go back and forth in a Socratic fashion about what might be going on.
At its core, Bobb’s short is a look into a world devoid of life beyond flora. The overwhelming loneliness and loss depicted are raw and relatable, delivered effectively through visuals of barren trees, rolling fog, and endless water. Aerial shots of various fossilized skeletons convey an incredible longing — it doesn’t matter how many fossils are left behind if no one is there to study them.
Bobb is impressively accurate with his intention to render his audience ready to catch our breath, which is especially true of the film’s cinematography by Bob Gundu. The film's beginning builds suspense wonderfully, with a keen understanding of when to focus on its monsters and when to keep them out of sight. The glimpses we get are enough to satiate us with countless other horrors. The overall view is staggeringly disconcerting when we finally see the presumably titular ‘Fore-Men.’ Their alien silhouettes, strange gas masks, and tentacle-like extensions have a symmetrical yet unearthly feel. Whether intentional or not, their biology harkens to Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022), with the design of Jean Jacket featuring a similar alien aesthetic –– though The Fore-Men’s antagonists are undoubtedly far more menacing.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t conclude with any lasting impact. Its imagery does the heavy lifting, leaving its character dynamics and personalities empty and lackluster. The horror of The Fore-Men lies in a future without people, cold and uncaring. Because we scarcely have any time to get to know our lead Sam or her companion, it is difficult to feel any emotional tether to her. In the brief time we have with them, all we come to know about Sam and Roger is surface-level at best. As a result, the audience is left feeling not unlike the future Bobb creates: cold and uncaring.
It’s a disappointing flip-side to the viewing experience, as its visuals are quite stunning, and the antagonist’s creature design is unique. The Fore-Men is a film with lofty goals and intentions better suited to the feature-length film format. According to an interview with Bobb, he has plans for precisely that. The short film delivers a viciously lonely view of what the world might be like if humans were at their worst and no one was there to stop them.