Y2kI don’t believe it!  A no-budget horror short that’s actually as good as, if not better than, most bigger budgeted genre features.  Yes, we all know the dreaded “millennium bug” was a big fat joke, but you’re advised to catch Y2K: SHUT DOWN DETECTED, an extremely slick little film marred only by the fact that it really should have been longer.

Y2K: SHUT DOWN DETECTED, conceived as a feature, was made over a two year period by Trent Shumway, Slava Siderman and John Gonzales, who originally counted five more prospective filmmakers among them.  That number was whittled down, however, as was the film’s budget and running time.  The result lasts a mere 22 minutes, yet the production was elaborate enough for a feature film—witness the “making of” featurette included on the DVD (both it and the film are extras on Shock O’ Rama Cinema’s release of the lame horror flick DEMONESS), which is nearly three times as long as the film itself.

It’s December 31, 1999: The employees of a high-tech genetic engineering lab await the turn of the millennium, secure in the belief that they’re prepared for the dreaded Y2K bug; they’ve even hired a renegade hacker to help make their computers Y2K compliant.  But when midnight comes everything goes haywire.  The central computer is unable to read the number 2000 and loses its memory, finding itself unable to recognize the alien material its purpose is to help contain.  The computer locks down the entire facility and, in order to closely examine the strange material, orders up a tissue sample, unleashing a blob-like mass of animated goo.

Thus a monster is on the loose amidst the various humans trapped inside the facility.  It doesn’t live long, though, forcing the computer to come up with a more sophisticated creature, a tentacled what’s-it that takes to attacking the facility’s employees and turning them into cannibalistic zombies.  But the computer’s experiments aren’t finished: it decides to create a whole new species, which it does by having the tentacle critter impregnate an unfortunate woman, in whom a brood of mutant children grow at over one hundred times the normal rate…

Like I said, this film is SLICK.  Unlike so many of today’s horror no-budgeters, it was actually shot on film (not video) and has a stylish, professional sheen.  The constant intercutting between the master computer’s POV (where thought consists of numerical data and the facilities’ employees are seen as tiny specks swirling around a nondescript box) and that of the humans trapped in its lair is intriguing, as is the filmmakers’ refusal to kowtow to the slower members of their prospective audience—in other words, information is doled out to us as the film unfolds, with no handy summaries by the performers (no “Oh no, the computer just created another monster!” silliness here).

The problems arise from the truncated running time and limited budget.  The special FX are good, but there should be more of them.  We never see the mutant babies, for instance (in the original conception they were apparently supposed to grow to the size of a building and rampage down a crowded street), although the directors do a clever job of covering up their absence with a series of quick cuts.  The monsters we do see are too few; the conceptual artwork shown in the Making-of featurette is intriguing, picturing a variety of amazing critters that unfortunately never made it to the shooting stage.

Vital Statistics 

1:1 Films/Shock-O-Rama Cinema

Directors/Producers/Editors: Trent Shumway, Slava Siderman, John Gonzales
Screenplay: John Gonzales
Cinematography: Slava Siderman
Cast: Jason Fenton, Ellen Horn, Leonard Clifton, John Gonzales, Stacey Seale, Laura Satterfield, Kat Kuckens, Katrina Elias, Trent Shumway, Jill Bernstein, Melyssa Flanery, Terri Wright, Armando Landaverde, Sasha Luderer