What do you imagine the future will look like? When I was young, I pictured that the moment the clocks struck midnight on December 31st 1999, we’d all be presented with hoverboards and robot companions. Unfortunately, all I woke up with on January 1st 2000 was a splitting headache and very little memory of the night before. Since that moment, I’ve come to the realisation that the future will not be a slick, peaceful world, but more of the same, just with slightly better technology. Something director Eric Jungmann appears to agree with if his debut short Body of the Mined is any indication.
Opening with a scene of a tired-looking man performing brain transfer experiments on rats in an unloved apartment, although there’s no on-screen title or discarded newspaper to announce it, it’s clear that Body of the Mined is set in the future, but it’s certainly not a universe too dissimilar to ours. As our isolated protagonist coughs into his hand, revealing splatters of blood, we begin to get an understanding of what is at stake here for him and quickly come to the conclusion that time is not on his side.
It’s a strong exposition and only takes around 90-seconds for us to be immersed in Jungmann’s world, eager to see more. As new characters are introduced – a big-haired new neighbour and a violent gun-toting gang – we’re intrigued to see how all their lives will become intertwined over the next 15-minutes. I won’t say too much, as I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but if you like grounded science-fiction, with some great practical FX work and quite a bit of blood, Body of the Mined should be a good fit for your tastes.
Jungmann’s short is an action-packed piece, but that’s not to say it lacks substance, there’s some decent character work here, but more importantly, there’s just the right amount of weight to the story. Built around the question of “what if you could alter something about yourself that others have labeled as one of your greatest limitations?”, Body of the Mined tackles themes of identity, sacrifice and control and leaves viewers with plenty to think about, once you’ve recovered from the experience of watching it.
It’s one of those science-fiction storylines that feels primed for further development, but even outside the impressive narrative, there’s plenty of stellar craft here to admire as well. Talking to Jungmann about his short, he’s keen to point out the cinematography (for which they used a “set of vintage 90’s HAWK anamorphic lenses to help achieve the grimy, anxious aesthetic of the film”) and the production design (where he aimed “to build an authentic environment, layered with nostalgic retro-futurism and tarnished textures”), but for me, it’s that aforementioned FX work that really caught my eye.
As a fan of practical FX, ever since I discovered how they made the nightmarish “Birth of Frank” scene in Hellraiser, Body of the Mined is obviously a short that suits film fans of a certain persuasion, but even if you’re not a fan of blood and gore, it’s hard not to admit this is a visually impressive piece, especially when you consider how much is done in-camera. “A lot of time and energy went into the conceptualization of our Special Makeup Effects”, Jungmann explains, before adding that they “were all executed practically on set and designed by Ben Ploughman”. The director admits to being “such a huge fan of practical effects” and decided early on in the realisation of short that he wanted “gruesome ideas to play a significant role during the gory sequences of sci-fi body-horror”. The Body of the Mined team even insisted on making sure all the tech and weaponry in the film was practically fabricated, insisting that their tangible quality and the lack of “post-production embellishment” really helped with the believable world-building in the short.
Having worked as an actor in Los Angeles for about twenty years, Body of the Mined is Jungmann’s first-steps into the behind-the-camera world of directing, something he hopes to pursue for the rest of his career. Setting out to create what he describes as a “visceral, commercially entertaining film, with thought-provoking themes, dark tones and grounded performances”, as I alluded to earlier I wouldn’t be surprised to see more from the world of Body of the Mined in the future.
Over to you…industry folks, let’s make this happen.