Slamdance Review: Michael Biggs Orchestrates a Surreal Journey With ‘CD-Trip’
Michael Biggs’ “CD-Trip” featured on Slamdance’s Narrative Shorts takes you on a surreal, horror-tinged, retro trip back to the early days of the internet.
Karley Parker stars as Tracy, a self-taught programmer who is not a big fan of spaghetti, attempting to complete an internet puzzle through a series of directives. We never find out what these directives are or who set them up, but as someone who finds the lore of internet puzzles like Cicada 3301 fascinating, I would go all in on watching Tracy explore the puzzle.
We see Tracy obtain a copy of a program that supposedly gets the user high, the titular CD-Trip. She runs the program and it starts by asking “How strong do you want your trip to be today? 1-weakest, 10-strongest”. She selects 10 and the program begins running a series of flashing designs (content warning if you’re sensitive to flashing lights) before she turns it off and goes to sleep. She awakens to find her roommate Brady crying for help. As she enters the living room she finds Brady in a full on body horror experience with the spaghetti, which dissolves into a cacophony of dial up tone and code to end the short.
The film is shot on 16mm which adds to the retro look and captures the 90s feel. The attention to retro details is remniscent of Ti West’s The House of the Devil or V/H/S/94, it feels like a love letter to the early programmer and hacker instead of pandering to them. The interlude shots of nature have a vaporware feel that also adds to the nostalgic vibe.
The sound, like the cinematography, is spot on for the late 90s dial up internet. The first time I heard the modem, I was immediately taken back to my early teenage years and my own internet discoveries. Mike Biggs stated he spent most of the time in post-production perfecting the sound effects and I honestly think it paid off completely. The synthy, 8-bit score feels right at home as well.
I have to give a shout out to Specs, Dax’s cat who gets included in the credits. I thought this was wonderful and more films should include the animals who appear.
Once the credits roll the screen reads “What’s next?” and that is honestly my reaction. This short hit on multiple levels of things that I love, and I would watch a full length feature on this same story because there are so many unanswered questions with opportunities to expand the plot. Who is the individual in the hat? Where do all the doors take us? Is CD-Trip part of the puzzle? Was Tracy destined to find it or was it pure coincidence? Was the body horror ending real or simply the result of her level 10 trip? The vague ending is my favorite since anyone else watching this may come up with a completely different interpretation. I’m very interested in seeing what Michael Biggs does next and will be keeping an eye on future projects from him.
Check out the trailer below!