Little Joe follows a plant breeder who helps design a flower (named Little Joe, after her son) that releases pollen that makes you feel happy. But the flower's ability to alter emotions proves to be only the beginning of its effects on the brain.
Little Joe Review
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers concept has been tackled many, many times; from self-titled tales to more subdued films like The Invasion. The concept was most culturally relevant in the 1950s original, which used the concept of mind-altering aliens as a metaphor for Cold War paranoia. The Donald Sutherland-led remake in the 1970s focused on social isolation. In all turns, the stories tell of an alien invasion of some kind, ranging from a contagion to a parasite, that takes over the human host and leads them to becoming...not themselves. The subtle form of alien invasion and/or mind control has been interpreted countless ways, and Little Joe takes its own stab at the idea.
No, Little Joe doesn't have any extraterrestrials in it. This take on the Body Snatchers formula focuses on the consequences of abusing genetics as a metaphor for our growing dependency on mind-altering medications. And it is by far the most subdued interpretation of the concept yet.
Little Joe isn't a slow burn, because that implies there is a gradual/eventual rise in intensity and a climax. Little Joe's story does progress and the tension needle does shake as things move along, but there isn't much of a build or climax. For the most part, this film sits at a low yet constant unease with a very mild atmosphere. It has a steady, unflinching pace that never waivers no matter what is happening on screen. At times it feels like the director is under the sobering influence of the flower as well.
I have to speak to the score. It has this unorthodox and imbalanced rhythm that adds to the uneasy style of the film, but it also impressed this high-pitched ringing sound throughout the runtime that really started to irritate me physically. I couldn't stand it. I'm sure that was part of the point of the sound, but it was overused and detestable. I had to turn the film's volume down on multiple occasions just to withstand it. Maybe my undead ears are just too sensitive.
The acting is as robotic, rhythmic and bland as the plodding pace. It makes it difficult to tell who's "infected" and who isn't because everyone is acting like they don't know how to be human. It's like a more subdued version of a Yorgos Lanthimose film, which I have regularly referred to his works (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) as what it would look like if an alien arrived on earth, watched 10 indie dramas, then tried to make a movie. Take from that what you will.
Little Joe is subdued on steroids. This movie is incredibly drab and dry throughout the entirety of the runtime. There is a story, but it is almost verbatim the Body Snatchers structure with just a flower instead of an extraterrestrial organism. This slightly changes the dynamic in terms of responsibility imposed on the protagonist and the more relevant and relatable principles introduced therein, but it still wasn't very unique or intriguing because you see where everything is going.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 5/10
Horror Quality: 2/10
Film Quality: 5/10