In a perfect world, a competent Hollywood studio would be optioning the rights to turn Tom Judd’s engaging tale of a sullen nerd playing god into a Cronenberg-style feature-length head trip. In its current form, Bruce still packs a wealth of ideas and gruesome little details into its brief running time.
A seemingly meagre plot revolves around an open source application that allows users to grow a plethora of items. Kittens, house plants and onion bhajis are all up for grabs, but our guide instead opts to fashion an action hero of his own. He merely copies and pastes a code into a software programme that looks far too user-friendly and – hey presto! – Bruce is born. Yes, that Bruce. White vest and all. His creator has even constructed a perilous obstacle course full of gun-wielding grunts to test his skills. So far, so cute, right?
Well, not exactly. Judd displays a flair for wonderfully bleak images. His animations wriggle and flounder like confronted animals, and his alchemist cuts a fairly menacing figure – think The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy filtered through Pingu. There’s an awkward theme of control and dictatorship running throughout. His ‘hero’ obsession is signalled by the presence of a Terminator desktop background. He leads Bruce around using an archaic joypad, and remains stoic as he watches blood flow from his creation. Bruce is inventively summoned through the connection of a USB cable into a slab of raw meat, an artifice that provides the short with its most unshakeable image.
The ending, while not exactly unexpected given the desolate tone of all that went before, still yields a cruel and provocative result.