Martin Carr reviews Black Mirror’s ‘Metalhead’…
Post-apocalyptic landscapes filmed in crisp black and white are the calling card of David Slade in this episode of Black Mirror entitled ‘Metalhead’. Sparse in explanation and concise in characterisation it offers up no reasoning, backstory or circumstance for its central protagonist played by Maxine Peake. Taking an online viral sensation as a jumping off point Charlie Brooker throws us full force into the fray by taking self-awareness, technological advances and end of the world scenarios to their logical conclusion.
Clocking in at just over thirty eight minutes not including credits ‘Metalhead’ represents a short sharp shock to the system. Economically filmed yet pumped full of suspense this ticking time bomb of an episode gives nothing away, tracking our heroine across isolated moorland and into derelict constructs. Plot wise there is only what can be gleaned from minimal dialogue as much of ‘Metalhead’ relies on pursuit throughout. Similar in feel to computer games such as Fallout 4 and Borderlands, there is a stripped down feel, quirky moments of emotion and slow burn cinematic tricks interwoven between the suspense.
Violence and its aftermath go hand in glove here as stark monochromatic images give everything a cold, isolating and barren sense of decay. In juxtaposition to the other elements on display it helps paint a disturbingly recognisable vision of an alternate future where humanity has taken a hit. As with every Black Mirror since its inception there are questions left unanswered, questions never asked and moments of calculated horror which threaten to unravel before our eyes. Maxine Peake pushes herself to new limits in a virtually dialogue free performance, which is reliant upon extreme physicality and an innate ability to act against thin air. Coming across like 28 Weeks Later and combining minimalist landscape and miles of sweeping scrubland, ‘Metalhead’ gives us moments of cold emotion, an indie movie mood swing and Doctor Who’s K-9 on steroids.
In this visual snapshot of techno fear writ large Brooker has taken our fascination with internet viral videos and raised the bar. Dark, dystopian and perfectly poised like polished Obsidian, ‘Metalhead’ draws on the endless well best reflected through a Black Mirror.