In good company with films like Cube and this year’s intense sci-fi thriller Oygen, Meander takes a small-scale setting and seasons it with disturbing imagery, shifting panels, claustrophobia, and decaying flesh. It is a horror puzzle box that will keep you hooked till the very end, lovingly crafted by writer/director Mathieu Turi.

Lisa (Gaia Weiss) catches a ride with a random stranger. She is a waitress from France, and he is a nightwatchman. Things take a turn for the weird when she talks about her desire to see her daughter again, and he simply responds “we’re all alone, all the time. There’s nothing after this.” When someone on the radio mentions a killer who matches her driver’s description, Lisa has nary a second of reaction time… then, she wakes up trapped in a tiny industrial-style room with a glowing bracelet attached to her wrist that is counting down. 

Crawling through the small space, parts of the room slide away, revealing themselves as needed for Lisa’s progression. She starts seeing visions of her daughter in this strange place. Why has she been brought here? What is the purpose behind this strange series of tests she must endure? The only thing Lisa can do is decipher the clues to find her way out of this impossible situation.

The intimate setting shows off stylish camera technique and directorial flourishes. Each room is weirdly lit, almost in a mysterious way, and this is before the hugely effective (and terrifying) creature drops down into the rooms and begins its pursuit of Lisa. It also forces the audience to feel every scrape and cut—the visceral progression of Lisa through these pipes and rooms is the basis of the entire movie. Gaia Weiss portrays the survival instinct of Lisa in each believable reaction. You can feel the gears moving in her brain as she tries to justify each decision she makes, with realism always at the forefront. An encounter involving a giant furnace and a Hunger Games-style battle had my heart racing.

The various setbacks along the way are genuinely chilling, particularly that pipe-monster. Another great one is an acidic, neon-green liquid that Lisa is forced to reason with. Meander takes on a weird and surrealistic quality as it tunnels (pun intended) toward a satisfying and fittingly bizarre conclusion. Lovers of claustrophobic settings and survival thrillers will find this is one pipe system that rewards a cautious Meander.

Meander gets lost in select theaters and VOD on Friday, July 9th from Gravitas Ventures.

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