Scintilla (2014)


aka The Hybrid

UK. 2014.


Director – Billy O’Brien, Screenplay – Rob Green, Billy O’Brien & G.P. Taylor, Story – Steve Clark & Joshua Golga, Producer – Lionel Hicks, Photography – G. Magni Agustsson, Music – Adrian Johnston, Visual Effects Supervisor – Colin J. Smith, Visual Effects – Ginger Bread Monkey, Prosthetics – 13 Finger Effects (Designer – Dan Martin), Production Design – Paul Inglis. Production Company – Liquid Noise Film Productions


John Lynch (Jim Powell), Morjana Alaoui (Dr Lyla Healy), Antonia Thomas (Steinmann), Beth Winslet (Dr Matisa Irvine), Perri Hanson (Goethe), Craig Conway (Mason), Ned Dennehy (Harris), Jumayn Hunter (Spencer), Edward Dogliani (Corry), Chris Ellis-Stanton (Williams), Aiste Gramantaite (Biker Girl), Sophia Hatfield (Ali)


Mercenary Jim Powell is freed from an African prison and asked to undertake a dangerous assignment. His old team are reunited and they are sent to accompany scientist Lyla Healy into an insurgent stronghold in the former Soviet republic of Azerjestan. They make their way into the rebel base and then down into the labyrinth of basements beneath to the laboratory at the centre of the complex run by Dr Irvine. It is discovered that she has engaged in a series of genetic experiments using DNA taken from meteorites. This has created two unearthly hybrid children. As the group try to complete their mission and get out of the complex, as much danger is presented by the rebels and the treachery of their backers as it is by the children and their unknown powers.

Scintilla, which was renamed The Hybrid for general release, was the third film for Irish director Billy O’Brien. In all of his other films, O’Brien has demonstrated a preference for genre material, beginning with Isolation (2005), which also featured John Lynch as a farmer dealing with mutating livestock, and the Syfy Channel release Ferocious Planet (2011). Scintilla/The Hybrid was followed by I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016).

The opening scenes show that Billy O’Brien has done a good job studying Ridley Scott and the school of creatures stalking people in the dark. It takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the central laboratory and the creatures. During the lead-up, O’Brien does a fine job in generating suspense as he takes us through a minefield, the efforts to get into the insurgent camp and then down into the cellars beneath where the party is stalked by bizarre creatures that look as though they have lightbulbs for heads. The tension during these scenes is very well conveyed.

When we meet Goethe, it is a striking and original creation – a boy with multiple golden sminiature eyes and breathing vents at his neck. The performance that Perri Hanson gives is coolly alien and otherworldly, which further adds to the intrigue. There is also a fine performance from Beth Winslet – no less than the younger, almost unknown sister of Kate – who delivers the part of the scientist responsible with posh accent intact where she gives many shadings to what could have slid into cliche in someone else’s hands.

All of that said, Scintilla/The Hybrid works well in the build-up but less so once it lets its hybrid child out of confinement. The film introduces a fascinatingly alien creation but then does nothing more than have him kill most of the personnel (or they kill each other) and escape. I guess I wanted more to match the originality of the creation. It is essentially a problem of the script being underwritten – the explanations of Goethe’s origins, the reasons whereby they have broken in to extract him are all dwelt on to a minimal degree. The film even opens on John Lynch imprisoned in an African jail but does nothing to explain why he is there – even so, he gets the most characterisation of anyone in the film.

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