Terrorism and global pandemics have made destination travel a thing of the past, so virtual reality “Getaways” have become the only escape. This is Hollis Sherman-Pepe’s sci-fi short Twenty Minute Getaway.
The use of virtual reality in films has given us some of the most memorable movies of recent times; Tron, Total Recall, The Matrix, Strange Days, and Ready Player One are just some favourites. Hollis Sherman-Pepe’s sci-fi has now added another to that list, with her excellently well-made short film that, despite its limited budget, manages to create some remarkable moments, make some hugely important points, and stays with you long after the credits roll.
Twenty Minute Exotic Getaway takes place in a future where VR is not just a hobby but a virtual way of life. With pandemics, violence, and crime being rife, the ultimate escape is short twenty-minute holidays where people plugin and let their minds wander, creating the impression they are having an otherworldly experience. The short shows how this works in an early scene of beautiful kinetic energy as Devon Beckwourth (the statuesque Hollis Sherman Pepe) imagines herself in a tranquil meadow full of bright blooming flowers, surrounded by gorgeous hills and valleys. Following this is a very clever scene in which Devon and her husband make love while wearing VR masks. Devon is looking at her husband through the mask but, as Devon accidentally finds out, he has another girl programmed into his own viewer.
Another moment shows them both having a candlelit romantic meal, but as the camera cuts to the wide shot, we see them sitting at a plain kitchen table eating some very unappetising looking pellets. Working from her own screenplay, Sherman-Pepe turns scenes like this into a critique of virtual reality, they are brief but extremely smart, requiring us to think about the uses, good or bad of this technology, something which very few movies can or even attempt to do. As Devon delves deeper into the VR world, she begins to receive messages she believes to be warnings about her and the population’s reliance on this type of technology.
For such a small budget and the length of time it took to make, 5 years according to our notes, Twenty Minute Exotic Getaway is a technical triumph. Director Sherman-Pepe, along with her visual effects designers and special-effects artists, creates the vision of a future that allows you to change your surroundings simply by touching them and yet they feel so familiar. Cinematographer Gabriel Gely’s shots are dazzling, especially the VR sections and the opening traveling shots in which we take a whistle-stop tour of a decaying city. The pacing is relentless, and the editing by Chris Chandler, Erin Perri, and Philip Perri creates an urgency that, by the end, leaves us wanting a twenty-minute break.
What Twenty Minute Exotic Getaway does extremely well is create a convincing future landscape and populates it with characters who are flawed and complex. As the writer, director, and star Hollis Sherman-Pepe is the heart of this short and the main reason for its success. She will deserve all the praise, accolades, and success that will undoubtedly come her way.