22+ Vivarium Reviews – Eerie Social Isolation Timing, Better Suited as Anthology TV Episode

Vivarium ⭐️⭐️½

Yes, paid for this on VOD and paid the extra $3 to own it for $9.99 vs. renting it for $6.99. A gamble, after seeing, that should have gone with the first option.

“It’s very strange, very surreal and weirdly creepy,” said Finnegan by phone from Dublin. “I don’t know if it’s something we should capitalize on, but people have been messaging me saying that they loved it and the experience was more intense with what’s going on outside.”

How ‘Vivarium’ predicted how coronavirus quarantine feels
– Los Angeles Times

Am glad to hear they aren’t trying to capitalize on the pandemic with the isolation sci-fi fantasy/horror tale. Social isolation aside, this isn’t a virus story.

Before continuing on with more details, we’re headed to spoiler territory. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to, might be best to leave the rest of this post until after seeing it.

… you’ve been warned, SPOILERS ahead …

The type of movie I should have loved … but here’s why I didn’t

This has the makings of a great anthology movie or TV show story, but I didn’t find enough meat on the bones for a full length movie. It started out promising and then got weirder and weirder. The addition of the child who grows up abnormally fast didn’t save it. The obnoxious scream from the child like a teapot going off (“tea is ready!”) worked only the first time and served to be grating and annoying every time thereafter.

The final scenes where escape seemed possible beneath the city has been done before — and better. I did like the digging part, but again, that as a form of madness when “hearing things” has also been done before.

This movie just ended up being one cliche after another with source material at best heavily inspired by earlier stories (see: TV SERIES Review: The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E1 – Where is Everybody? (#1 of 156))

The acting, cinematography and sound are good

Both Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg skillfully carry out the acting, working with material that was largely left for them to carry with their facial expressions, actions and limited dialogue. Kudos there.

The cinematography and effects were done good, too. I especially like when the street is bent up so that travel directly beneath street level is possible. Also liked the Yonder house development design. Reminded me of the scale of a train set. For a little while I thought that might be the payoff, it’s all just one gigantic train set and they never really could leave the town, because there was no exit. Alas, no such cool, twist ending like that.

Maybe if it had been an anthology show episode, there could have been a twist ending rather than leaving it intentionally vague. I actually like some endings that don’t spell everything out, but this wasn’t one of them.

Reviews by Others

How did others feel about Vivarium?


  1. Halloween Year Round / Dave Pierdomenico: “…a movie that definitely has something to say, but it’s up to audience to determine what that is. And honestly that’s a lot more interesting than the if the film had simply spelled it out for us.”
  2. harveycritic / Big Apple Reviews (Grade: B+): “This is a low-key sci-fi adventure with almost bloodless smidgens of horror which, with the crackerjack acting especially of Imogene Poots with Jesse Eisenberg in almost a supporting role is entertaining and enlightening.”
  3. Honestly On The Sly: “…is very much about revealing a neat, little web that two unsuspecting flies have been caught in, and as a metaphor for buying in to consumerist culture, it feels, as Friend put it, like “dated critique.””
  4. Horror Reviews by The Collective: “So if you like everything explained at the end of a movie, then never go near Vivarium. If, however, you like watching a completely character driven film, an excuse just to see two actors perform their asses off and play characters who, stripped of all outside influence, just have to put up with each other through everything, then this is where to go”
  5. IsBushey / Log’s Line: “To say that it’s aptly titled is a dramatic understatement; to call it one of the year’s best thus far is deserving. This movie sticks to your bones, penetrates your mind by going in one ear without exiting the other, and best of all, gives you enough answers to keep asking questions whilst filling in the blanks and the occasional cracks.”
  6. John Jr’s Blog: “I was impressed by this movie and what they were able to accomplish on a low-budget, it was filmed well, directed well, acted well, had an interesting concept”
  7. Kevin Lyons / The EOFFTV : “Engage with its weirdness (and there’s so much more than has been talked about here, including a brief stray into body horror territory) and Vivarium is a beguiling head-scratcher full of interesting and well-developed ideas.”
  8. Mikkelsen’s Musings (8/10): “…stages its two protagonists as sincerely human characters trapped in a relentlessly dystopian setting, and the end result is an intriguing, deeply original and genuinely mystifying science fiction thriller that keeps a firm grip around its dystopian theme and storyline from start to finish.”
  9. MOVIEMARKUS: “…for those who enjoy a sci-fi/horror which asks you to suspend belief, sit back and watch a quick little social experiment, this may be your jam.”
  10. No More Workhorse: “…well made and with strong performances by the lead actors. It also has a title which is remarkably apt. It is a film strangely suited for our time”
  11. Peter Cox / The Lost Highway Hotel: ” It’s an eerie, small triumph of the nightmares of privilege. But it might make you even more anxious to get outside.”
  12. PJ / Patrick Jr: “…shows us how life can flash before our eyes. Although we’re not trapped in an utopic neighborhood. We are metaphorically bound by our perception of life. We shouldn’t spend our life trying to understand why, but rather understanding our purpose”
  13. Short Film Reviews: “Maybe not the best film during the quarantine days but if, like me, you are a fan of one-location allegorical thrillers, don’t have any high hopes and give it a shot.”
  14. Stephen Murray: “When you’re playing with so many styles, genres and influences you’re bound to make art that transcends its makers’ given intentions – and Vivarium is certainly that.”
  15. storgy: “what Vivarium does well is place the viewer inside the claustrophobic setting with the main characters. In an age where sequels, prequels, reboots and reimaging’s are reigning supreme, it’s a blast in the face of originality, albeit a dark and depressing one, but original, nonetheless.”
  16. World Film Geek (Rating: A): “The only annoying thing about the film is Jennings’ use of screaming on numerous occasions, making both the couple and this reviewer irritated as he sounds like a teapot on the stove that is ready when the steam blows.”
  17. Zobo with a Shotgun (4/5): “Director Lorcan Finnegan has truly made a horrible film that could devastate audiences and leave you feeling empty, hopeless and without any need of following the formalities of what life expects of you.”

Not Recommended (or on the fence)

  1. lukebarnes1886/Another Millienial Reviewer (1.5/5): “Overall, this was promising, but it is the anthesis of everything it set out to be, it is a thriller that is not thrilling.”
  2. Mirza Baig / Welcome To The Movie Ark: “…has talented actors like Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots bringing in their A-game, but the point of the film after a while just runs thin, and when the finale kicks in, you are just left feeling unbalanced and unsatisfied.”
  3. Not Left Handed Either Film Guide: “I admired Vivarium for its artistry (heavy shades of Magritte) and was never bored during its ninety seven minute running time but I don’t think I’d recommend it.”
  4. popcult: “The problem with this film is that none of the juicy, intriguing ideas presented is explored or even allowed the time to breathe.”
  5. Rinzy Reviews Films (2.5/5): “The major problem I had with this movie is how all its build-up lead to nothing and how we don’t even get crucial answers to certain important questions”
  6. unclewalker / Factual Reviews: “Disappointed.”

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Happy movie watching!

FIRST LOOK: Vivarium

Billed as a sci-fi/horror hybrid, this one seems like right in my movie genre interest.

It originally screened at Cannes in 2019 and released in Ireland, UK and United States on March 27, 2020 (in what limited theaters are open, I guess) as well as VOD simultaneously(?) it seems.

It stars Imogen Poots as Gemma and Jesse Eisenberg as Tom, a young couple looking to purchase their first home. They’re just checking out a lot in ultraboring Yonder housing development when their creepy real estate agent disappears from the tour. Gemma and Tom get in their car to leave but every turn just leads them back to Number 9.

Vivarium Director Lorcan Finnegan on His Prescient Movie

Seems very ironic indeed bearing our current world situation where many people are under stay at home orders.

Titles are significant in drawing my initial interest in a movie. This title? The effective single word title, ah yes. I was thinking it was a twist on aquarium for some reason, but admittedly had to Google it for the full definition:

an enclosure, container, or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under seminatural conditions for observation or study or as pets; an aquarium or terrarium.

Definition of VIVARIUM via Google

The definition in my head was close and seems to match the subject matter.

This reminds me from the plot and trailer of the classic Twilight Zone episode “People are Alike All Over” — no idea if that’s where the story ultimately goes, as I haven’t seen it yet (but planning to soon), but I’m getting that feel. That was a good episode too.

Vivarium is available on VOD for rental or purchase as of March 27, 2020.