Writer: Magdalena Drahovska and Martin Grof
Director: Martin Grof
Let’s cut to the chase, Sensation is a terrible film and despite a potentially interesting premise involving a postman, DNA harvesting and experimentation and plenty of sci-fi kookiness, Martin Grof never manages to make any of it remotely coherent, entertaining or worthy of its 90-minute running time. It may be British and low budget, but this is a one-man movie with Grof simultaneously wearing the Director, Producer, Co-Writer and Co-Director of Photography hats and he clearly has a tightly controlled vision for this story that doesn’t translate to the screen.
Lured to a DNA matching service in the hope of finding his father, postman Andrew is perplexed by his encounter with the maniacal Dr Marinus who offers him no matches with anyone. On his way home, Andrew is attacked by the doctor and then stalked by two mysterious figures. Finding himself at a strange testing centre, Andrew’s sensory abilities are enhanced and under the leadership of May and Nadia, a training programme begins.
The two obvious reference points for Grof’s film are X-Men: First Class and Inception, replacing the concept of mutation with heightened sensory reaction to create a group of superheroes-in-waiting who only need to harness their gifts and learn to control them. Add to that a multi-layered reality concept where training means the participants struggle to determine what is real and what has been projected into their minds. As the students turn against the regime, it is almost as if Charles Xavier and Cobb have combined life stories.
Except Grof’s film is hopelessly stilted, lacking the panache, charisma and character development of Matthew Vaughn’s mutant universe or the complex but nonetheless meticulously conceived timelines of Christopher Nolan’s dreamscapes. Dr Marinus’ purpose is never fully revealed and characters tend to declare they don’t have time to explain the ‘science’ while Andrew’s pursuers sometimes provide subjects for Marinus but may work for a separate organisation. There is also a deeply unlikely Magneto-esque link to Nazi experimentation that couldn’t possibly fit the modern timeframe of this movie without the relevant characters being at least 20 years older (and this is not noticeably set in the 1990s). Plus, Alex Reid plays a henchman.
There are also a disappointing collection of performances that are so strangely heightened and out of tune with one another that you might think this is a spoof at first (sadly, it’s not). Eugene Simon probably has the best of it as Andrew whose role as a postman is not referenced in any way and seems like a missed opportunity for some mail chicanery and Simon seems to be as confused as we are.
Alastair G. Cumming as Dr Marinus gives such a ludicrous performance as the never seen again bad guy you may think he’s wandered in from a 1960s Peter Sellers movie, while Jennifer Martin as May (the Jean Grey of this set-up), using her mind’s forcefield to generate test locations, speaks with a strangely deliberate diction that distracts from any character depth or hard-luck backstory.
Sensation is just a mess and finding any positives is a stretch – the mansion is pretty and there is a nice bit of lighting in the subway scene – otherwise what could have been an interesting movie about genetic testing and the perils of being different is lost in laboured dialogue, uninteresting characters and an inexplicable plot. Maybe in the sequel, Wolverine can go back in time and stop any of it from happening.
Available on Amazon from 16 April 2021