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This short article deals with the horror of “The Animatrix”, the prequel to “The Matrix” episode one. It was released straight to video in 2003 and features nine anime shorts about the backstory of “The Matrix”.
It’s post-cyberpunk like “The Matrix”, with a few crossovers of genres not seen in the original trilogy. It works upon a few deeply disturbing tropes proposed by the original movies that integrate psychological horror.
Being an anthology movie older than one and a half decades, it doesn’t make sense for me to review all the plots of each of the shorts. On this post, I will touch upon the subject of short number eight, “A Detective Story” only.
“A Detective Story”
Ash is a down and out, hard-boiled detective living in the 1940s or 1950s of a reloaded iteration of the matrix. He is hired for a case, locating a hacker known as Trinity.
How the events play out is noir in content, context, and style.
Carrie-Ann Moss and as Trinity and James Arnold Taylor as Ash voice-act in this short directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. I liked both voice actors rendition of the characters.
For how Ash looks such a voice helps to balance the character and make it believable. Also, I think bringing anime candor into the script was great. Especially for ones who, like me, watch this short for its noir flavor.
It’s impressive, at just eight minutes and six seconds length, how it delivers. It’s a great post-cyberpunk-noir story and I won’t spoil it for those that didn’t watch it already.
Still, I’d say that as a noir story transplanted to the movie’s universe, it couldn’t have been better executed. The vistas of the city of the forties are ominous and breathtaking.
I also loved the anime element put into it, I won’t tell what it was but it will surely surprise you and make you laugh when you see it.
I recommend watching this short after a long time watching noir movies, and the odd scene I’m talking about is going to make you laugh. It’s going to make you see how film noir takes itself too seriously. Because it’s a scene that totally sticks out.
I’d recommend this short to those that want to get into film noir movies. Maybe it will have with them the effect it had on me.
Because after I watched this short two or three times, I finally decided to become an expert in noir cinema. As a side note, I wouldn’t say I also recommend it to Twin Peaks fans, even if Ash is a nod to agent Cooper.
“A Detective Story” as Psychological-Horror-Noir
Reading from canon-informed sources, and not speculating from loose pieces of content on the web, we learn that the backstory of The Matrix features two previous matrixes:.
The Paradise Matrix: a world without suffering where everyone was happy. It was rejected as unreal by the humans connected to it.
The Nightmare Matrix: the architect’s response to the failure of the paradise matrix. A karma-based and suffering-based matrix of which The Merovingian was the operating system.
Since the modern matrix (the one we see in the movies), is just a simulation of human civilization at its peak (c1980-2027), it’s unlikely that the story transpires in it.
For how the world looks in the short and considering the short’s backstory and how it ends, it’s obvious that A Detective Story happens in the nightmare matrix.
Most noir movies have negative endings, in the 1940s and ‘50s time frame. It makes all the sense to create the nightmare matrix in those two decades when the corpus of noir movies was being generated.
Like the noir style, psychological horror is an element of fiction, and not a genre per se. If we go by the available definitions of psychological horror, then A Detective Story fits the bill with flying colors:
- The main character is emotionally stable but put in a situation featuring a mentally disturbed one
- The characters’ perceptions are manipulated by an outside agent
- The detached from the rest of the narrative nature of the story and the ignorance of Ash about Trinity are to symbolize that Ash isn’t perceiving reality accurately
- Psychological Horror Trope: Trough The Eye of Madness
Two days after writing this post, I read that Paul Duncan classified certain noir movies as “nightmare noir”. A Detective Story falls under this classification, too.
There’s a relatively recent movie that explores the horror of a nightmare matrix, but I’m not telling which one.
I prefer not to tell the name of the movie because the nightmare matrix concept in it is the final twist and telling the name of the movie will spoil it for those that didn’t see it yet.
- Partiallyexaminedlife.com (Matrix Essay)
- “A Detective Story” (The Matrix Wiki)
- Psychological Horror (Wikipedia)
- Matrix Beta Versions (The Matrix Wiki)
- Paradise Matrix (The Matrix Wiki)
- Nightmare Matrix (The Matrix Wiki)