Labyrinthus

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Labyrinthus
"While younger kids will probably have a tolerance for the low-fi manoeuvering, kids the same age as Frikke are likely to find it all a bit old hat."

There's a retro Children's Film Foundation feel to this sweet, if slight children's adventure tale that also recalls children's TV of the 80s, in particular, adventure puzzle gameshow Knightmare, which transported kids into a medieval dungeon via the use of blue-screen trickery and virtual reality gameplay. This may well be partially due to the fact that this is the first feature from Douglas Boswell, who has previously established himself in the realm of TV, which is a much more forgiving medium for this sort of episodic plotline.

Spencer Bogaert plays Frikke (no schoolboy sniggering at the back, please), a perfectly ordinary teenager who gets his hands on a mysterious USB stick and camera when a cyclist's bag falls off his back. Taking it home, he discovers that the stick contains a game and that he can upload pictures he takes to the platform - only when he tries it on the cat, he realises it has a big downside for whatever is being photographed in the real world.

Copy picture

Worse still, he also finds a girl called Nola (Emma Verlinden) trapped inside the game with no memory of how she got there - and when he discovers that the real world Nola is stuck in a coma it falls to him to help her escape the virtual landscape before it's too late.

In the game, Frikke is represented by a smelly newspaper folded avatar named Hattie - a decent source of humour from scripter Pierre De Clercq and which allows the film to flip its perspective from Frikke's to Nola's, resulting in a good balance of male and female in the adventure stakes. Every game needs a bad guy, of course, and here it is a leather-clad, crow-mask wearing villain whose moves are guided by an unseen games master, who urges Frikke to find a code or Nola will die.

The film moves between the real world and the fantasy realm, which presumably due to budget limitations, is represented by chunky sets that have a very 'physical' comic book feel (recalling the previously mentioned old-school blue screen work), including a land of cards and a pop-up town. The camaraderie - and jealousy - of the children is strong and believable but the plot arrives in clumps that often involve leaps in logic. Characters are introduced on a whim and the decision to make Frikke's dog almost magical is mostly a way to gloss over plot failings that can't be dodged any other way.

Bogaert and Verlinden are likeable leads and it's always good to see a film about children that actually features actors who are the right age for the parts, but while younger kids will probably have a tolerance for the low-fi manoeuvering, kids the same age as Frikke are likely to find it all a bit old hat.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2015
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A boy discovers a girl trapped in a computer game.

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EIFF 2015

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