NSFW Warning: Valibation contains grown-up content including naked people, naughty words, and unwholesome uses of technology. Don’t watch it with your sweet little old grandma.
Valibation will have you alternately laughing and dry-heaving, and that’s high praise coming from me. With a running time just a bit over 20 minutes, it’s longer than most of the science fiction short films we’ve highlighted here on GFR in the past, but it’s absolutely worth your time to see what happens when one man’s obsession with social media and his phone takes an unnerving turn that ensures he’ll never be able to go hands-free again. Vimeo won’t let us embed Valibation, but it’s worth clicking over there to check it out, and we’ll get spoiler-y below this point. Don’t worry, I can just check Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Reddit and Pinterest while I wait.
Written, directed, and edited by A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas helmer Todd Strauss-Schulson, Valibation opens with two things that encapsulate its entirety: 1) a phone-addicted schlub trolling for a booty call while 2) one of the squick-ier sequences from David Cronenberg’s The Fly plays on TV in the background. Valibation has some cutting things to say about our culture’s obsession with our digital lives at the expense of our real ones, but the path it takes to get there is through a meaty, puss-dripping avenue that would make Cronenberg proud.
It takes a few minutes before poor Aaron (Eric Edelstein) wakes up with his phone now merged grotesquely with his hand, but the thing might as well have been attached to him from the start. This is a guy who can barely wait till the cute naked blonde has crawled off the top of him to check his Facebook, and who never masturbates because that would require him to stop fiddling with his phone for, well, 30 seconds or so at least. Hopefully most of us don’t venture too near those extremes, but I guarantee you some moments in Valibation will feel uncomfortably close to home. We’ve become a culture of people terrified of being undistracted and alone with our thoughts. And honestly, if the freakish phenomenon at the core of Valibation were available as an elective surgery and a little less gross, I have no doubt they’d find plenty of volunteers.
Of course, Valibation also balances its satire with some good old-fashioned body horror, featuring several moments that should make you squirm in a queasy but appreciative manner. We’re big fans of practical effects done well here at GFR, and Valibation pulls off some great ooky moments. (I’m a sucker for a good fingernail gag.)
Here’s what Strauss-Schulson told FirstShowing about the origins of Valibation last year:
I’m addicted to my cell phone. I’m on it all the time. Why? Why am I on Instagram all day? Why do I have a reflex to grab my phone the second someone gets up from a table at dinner. Why do I care if someone retweets me… What is that?
I don’t have the answer, but it seemed like an interesting and, hopefully, relatable issue to dive into with this new short.
I wanted to make something that had the ecology of a nightmare but made you laugh, was stylish but personal, that asked questions that I grapple with and attempted, in some way, to work out an answer.
It was really exciting to try some new stuff, challenge myself and take some risks with this one and I hope you all like it as much as I liked making it. Oh, and retweet the link if you like it. No, seriously.
I’d tell you how many times I checked Facebook during the process of writing this post, but that would just be depressing. Now then, where the hell did I put my phone…?