Release: June 29, 2018
Director: Federico D’Alessandro
Writer: Noga Landau
Starring: Maika Monroe as Julia/Subject 3, Ed Skrein as Alex, and Gary Oldman as Tau
Running Time: 97 minutes
Julia is a thief who makes her living lifting people’s personal effects in nightclubs until one night she is subdued and taken away. Julia awakens to find herself in a lab prison bound, gagged, and with an implant in the back of her neck. She is now known as Subject 3 and shares a cell with two other subjects, appropriately named Subject 1 and Subject 2. Subject 3 helps her fellow lab rats shed their restraints and she convinces them to escape the lab; an undertaking that ends with Subject 1 and 2 dead and Subject 3 shackled to an ugly abstract statue in the main room of the post modern hipster mansion above the lab. The lab and house are owned by Alex, an immature, brooding hipster who works with artificial intelligence, and he really needs scans of Subject 3’s brain activity for the multibillion dollar project he’s currently working on. When Alex leaves the house in the morning, he leaves Subject 3 in the care of the house’s domestic A.I. known as Tau who administers various intellectual tests in exchange for not “inflicting pain.” As time goes on, Subject 3 manages to negotiate her way to more and more freedom around the house and starts engaging in conversations with Tau, with whom she begins to form a bond. Eventually, with Tau’s help, she manages to escape the house, killing Alex in the process.
Where to start with Tau? There’s nothing inherently wrong with a low budget film. Hell, I’m a horror fan, I love low budget films. That being said, if you’re working on a small budget, it is probably best to take it easy on the CGI. This film is awash in terrible late 90s television CGI. I found myself wanting to laugh every time a swarm of the computer generated household drones would appear on screen. It looked like absolutely no effort was made to have them fit into the scenery, the lighting and textures were always incredibly off. The story is like bits from Ex Machina and 2001: A Space Odyssey filtered through the lens of a person who has read one too many YA sci-fi novels. Angsty young woman falls in love with socially awkward outcast while enduring some type of trial. Only the socially awkward outcast is a disembodied A.I. voice. It is incredibly stupid. The set designs are garbage, a basic motif of boxes and triangles. The lighting is bad, the characters are insufferable, and the acting vacillates between William Shatner-level ham and Kristen Stewart flat. Gary Oldman is particularly bad here as the voice of the titular artificial intelligence. Forgettable Deadpool villain Ed Skrein is at his forgettable best as Alex. Maika Monroe (whom horror fans may recognize from critically acclaimed anti-sex morality tale masquerading as a horror film It Follows) is outstanding as generic YA female protagonist.
I don’t know what kind of blackmailing the the filmmakers had to do to get this thing made, but it had to be something pretty bad. Netflix continues to serve as the dumping ground for projects that likely should have never seen the light of day in the first place. Should you watch Tau? Well, that depends on you really. Are you a connoisseur of crap? Do you enjoy watching films like The Room and Young Van Helsing? Then sure, it’s good for one viewing. The bad CGI (that they always seem to emphasize) makes it worth at least one viewing in that regard. If, however, you’re looking for a good sci-fi thriller, then Tau will definitely leave you wanting.