I've never written a single review before, despite a fairly strong desire to do so at times. But a few weeks ago, a very peculiar project pinged my radar. And now that I finally had a chance to watch it, I decided to scribble a few words about it.
Emesis Blue is an animated horror thriller set in Team Fortress 2 universe, created by Fortress Films production team using Valve's Source Filmmaker. It follows a private detective and a washed-up war veteran who set out to find an executive of the Builders League United Corporation, who mysteriously disappeared on a Halloween night of 1968.
Right from the beginning we're met by a very strong art direction. Shots are very well composed, lit, and color graded. Every scene is meticulously framed to tell a story. The composition itself is extremely well put. There are handful of shots that threw me into awe.
Of course there are various art style inconsistencies with the original style of TF2, but it all adds to the overall picture, and I don't think it was even intended to be consistent with TF2. Overly detailed wrinkles and rough surfaces, realistic imperfections now and then, particle systems that almost seem like they weren't made in Source: it all creates a sense of grit and in most cases provides a very serious contrast. The only complaint I personally have, and it is mostly based on the good old "how I'd do it", is the strength of the sharpen filter in the beginning. In my opinion, it created a fair amount of dirty shots. Nonetheless, it didn't take me out of the experience one bit.
The medical room scene actually reminded me of my own SFM work from 2016. The third episode of the "Documents" series had an intro sequence that also took place in a medical room, albeit a shady one. Good memories.
The animation of Emesis Blue is very good, most of the time even excellent. It's a solid mix of key framed animations, and home made motion capture, which my trained eye sees from afar. There was not a single time where I was taken out of the experience to think about the animation. It serves its purpose very well. There's weight, there's momentum, there's purpose. It's well detailed and it's awesome. The facial expressions are amazing though!
What is also worth mentioning is the camera work. The way the camera is animated is extremely good. There are lots of shots where you can clearly see a real life technique being used, whether it's a handheld movement, or a zoom in.
The audio work of this movie is extremely good. Sound effects and music are so well crafted and put together, there's practically nothing to complain about. It's dirty, scary, and creates tension. The one and only thing that I feel like could use some work is voice over mixing. Some lines are a little louder than the others. Some lines have different quality and equalization. There's occasional yet subtle booming of the wind shield, that, speaking from personal experience, is a bitch to work with.
I'm not quite sure whether the soundtrack to this movie is original, or it is a mashup of third party music tracks, but it's just perfect. If it is original, then hats off to Chad Payne, who's credited for audio work!
The entire cast did an amazing job at playing their characters. Whether it's Medic losing his mind, or
Citizen Jules Archibald being an arrogant bastard, they all sound pretty authentic. It would be unfair for me to criticize their impressions based on original voices of TF2. They're obvious, but you quickly forget about it as movie progresses. JazzyJoeyJr does a convincing Soldier impression. And despite me never hearing the Citizen class due to his absence in TF2, David Love sounds exactly as I would imagine him to speak. Chad Payne and Anton Pelizzari, director and producer of the project respectively, are actually voicing a whole heap of characters, and I didn't even notice that. In the end, it's the acting that matters in this movie.
It will sound fairly biased of me to say this due to past work, but Cameron Nichols does an incredible job portraying Scout. However, without spoiling, the true beauty of his performance reveals itself when he starts screaming. It is something I did not expect.
Another special (and biased) mention goes to John Whinfield voicing several background characters. I didn't even recognize him.
Now, the story is very well written. It's absolutely not TF2's dark cartoony humor. It's pure horror. There's tension, there's symbolism, and there are references. Some subtle, some not so much. The jokes that happen now and then in the spirit of TF2 are good and serve as a good defuser. Though, those unfamiliar with TF2 characters may find them out of place.
I don't watch a whole lot of movies, and the majority of the ones I do watch are usually not as popular or iconic. Yet, while watching Emesis Blue, it reminded me of Se7en, Mandy, The House That Jack Built, and more. At one point, though, I started losing the sub-plots. It is not something to do with the movie, but mostly with myself personally. Somewhere after 2/3 of the movie things started drifting away from me a little. The ending sequence, while looking as great as the rest of the picture, left me confused. Still, I think that the fans of the genre will find this one an enjoyable experience.
Emesis Blue truly is a very interesting, bold, and unique movie made with Source Filmmaker. And even aside from the software it was made with, and the community surrounding it, it is something very special. It does not drag things out and it tells you a story at its own pace. It creates and maintains a very good suspense without relying on cheap jumpscares. Hell, there are none. And it wouldn't be a spoiler.
I think this picture should be seen both by those, who frequent SFM and TF2 community, and those, who simply enjoy watching animated horror. Though, knowing at least a little bit about Team Fortress 2 lore and premise would immensly help you to digest this movie's story.