It's not often that an almost no-budget sci-fi/thriller from Finland crosses my desk, but when one does cross my desk I think there's some sort of moral obligation to actually review it.
Such is the case with Medicated, or Lääkekoe in Finnish, a sci-fi/thriller made on practically no budget by a small but dedicated team that put in hundreds of hours to make the constantly compelling, if not entirely successful, film come to life.
In the film Korppainen (writer/director Tapio Kauma) has been taking part in a medical experiment thrust upon him by his brother Kartsa, also played by Kauma. It is through this experiment that Korppainen enters another dimension and, before long, starts to realize that his dreams have fled his mind and entered the real world. As his time with the use of the experimental serum extends itself, Korppainen's past comes to the forefront and we learn those things from which he's been trying to escape. Can he escape these visions in his mind? Are they real or are they just his mind? Or will the visions ultimately take over?
In some ways, Medicated brings to mind early Adam Wingard, especially something along the lines of Pop Skull. While the film's experimental nature is challenging on no budget, in many ways it's also ideal for those fractures to come to life in a film with a fractured budget and fractured production values. Sometimes, those fractures sell the story in an even more powerful way.
Though, I should probably stress you shouldn't particularly expect a neat, tidy narrative story.
It ain't here.
There's much to appreciate about Medicated, a fun thriller with thought-provoking imagery and underlying ideas that are undeniably unique and engaging. While I'm not entirely convinced I'll ever watch the film a second time, the truth is that Medicated is really the kind of film that begs to be watched a second time to integrate all of its ideas.
While the acting in Medicated is a little hit-and-miss, the special effects, especially for a low-budget indie, are absolutely to die for despite their relatively primal state. The film's original music is quietly immersive yet tonally spot-on, while the film's lensing makes the most of the challenge of working within a low-budget. Yes, you can be inventive and creative even on a zero-budget film.
Medicated may not be the best sci-fi/thriller you'll see this year, but there's something freeing for truly creative types in just making the film for the love of making the film. That's what Medicated looks and feels like - a personal passion project in which that passion comes to life and is entertaining and engaging. Despite its limitations, and occasionally because of them, Medicated is definitely worth a view.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic