Uncovering Curiosities: Billy O’Brien’s SCINTILLA

Scintilla (also known as The Hybrid) shows once again that you don’t need a mega budget to deliver a captivating science fiction feature. Writer/director Billy O’Brien’s film may not break new ground in a narrative sense, but it works as a throwback film that incorporates a lot of sci-fi tropes into a very engaging feature. John Lynch is Powell, a badass mercenary who leads his team into a soviet compound in search of a mysterious scientific laboratory. Powell and his men are unaware of the dangers that face them and as they wander deeper into the bowls of the labyrinthine building.

Scintilla has a well worn set-up and the film takes elements from the usual genre suspects (Alien/Aliens/Predator/Terminator/Blade Runner) and O’Brien clearly wants to pay homage to these genre classics. This doesn’t feel like a cheap knock-off. It feels like a movie made by someone who appreciates the genre and wants to deliver something that works within the confines of certain conventions. The writer/director succeeds in this, ably supported by his cast who clearly understand the type of movie they’re making.

John Lynch makes an engaging lead; his gruff Irishness taking him into Liam Neeson territory in his role as the ‘tough as nails’ mercenary. O’Brien clearly knows how to use Lynch, seeing him as a leading man, rather than the supporting player role that he often seems confined to. It would be wonderful to see him break-out as the lead in a series of low budget actioners, carving a later career niche.

It’s obvious that Billy O’Brien’s film didn’t have the largest budget, but he makes good use of everything that he has. Utilising real locations gives the film an earthiness that adds a lot of atmosphere without ever feeling cheap, while the score by Adrian Johnston also hits the mark. There are a few good effects moments thrown in for good measure and some strong action beats. On the whole this feels like film from another time – and it brings to mind something like the 1992 Rutger Hauer effort Spilt Second.

Scoring high on the entertainment scale, Scintilla/The Hybrid works well as a genre piece. Billy O’Brien clearly wanted to replicate a type of movie that was popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s and he achieves this, delivering an impressive feature that breaks out from its budget restrictions. It’s never going to reinvent the science fiction genre, but it’s a well crafted and assured piece of filmmaking that will work for its very particular audience.