"THTHNG: Desolation Unknown" (2023) [Another Hole in the Head Film Festival]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s THTHNG: Desolation Unknown, an AI-generated imagery & video homage to 80s sci-fi and horror by Robbie Martin and Kelly Porter.

Directed, Edited, Scored & Sound Designed by Robbie Martin, THTHNG: Desolation Unknown is an entire feature length film homage to “The Thing” with every single frame, every person, every voice and every piece of musical soundtrack created and refined using AI based software.

The Good
Joseph: Gore galore and surreal nuttiness abound!

Mike: The good? Writers, actors, directors, and everyone else involved in the movie making process are still safe from being out of jobs because of A.I.
Seriously, though — the best aspect of this were some of the otherworldly designs that were generated for the different stages or iterations of the creature(s).

The Bad
Joseph: As a kid, I loved Clutch Cargo cartoons and their Syncro-Vox technology — which includes superimposing talking mouths on animation, in that case — and the limited animation of The Marvel Super Heroes. The AI visual effects of THTHNG: Desolation Unknown don’t show much in the way of progress from those two childhood favorites other than having much busier imagery.

Mike: Without getting into the ethical area of having AI do all of the “heavy lifting” of one’s ideas, or the fact that it’s trained on existing work that someone DID do the “heavy lifting” for, the AI technology is still far beyond being ready to create realistic films with the most glaring and annoying problem being that the imagery is inconsistent not just from scene to scene, but from shot to shot. The dialogue generated seems stitched together with lines that don’t always flow or even sound like an actual conversation (“The Americans are crazy”, “But their vehicles are not”), and the voices created to deliver this atrocity sound like someone took Stephen Hawking’s speech-generating device and altered the pitch and tone to make it into voices that lacked any inflections indicating emotion, mood, or sense of urgency.

The Verdict
Joseph: There’s no denying the amount of gruesome insanity on display here, so gorehounds interested in that will likely want to give THTHNG: Desolation Unknown a go, as should anyone concerned about AI replacing human beings in the movie industry anytime soon. Otherwise, it’s not easy to recommend this film, which starts off slow, becomes interesting, and then turns into an endurance test.

Mike: The concept behind this reimagining of THTHNG: Desolation Unknown is pretty cool, but is clearly generated by something basing its ideas on previous works, and that’s about where the kudos end.  I can’t, jokingly or seriously, recommend this to anyone except for someone who wants to make real movies and needs material to use as a cautionary tale of what NOT to do.
I would suggest that Martin and Porter take the prompts that they used to create this and use them as a basis for writing an actual script.

THTHNG: Desolation Unknown
, from Robbie Martin and Kelly Porter, is currently playing as part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival which runs from December 1st - 25th.  For more information visit https://www.ahith.com/

THTHNG: Desolation Unknown
Directed By: Robbie Martin and Kelly Porter
Written By: Robbie Martin and Kelly Porter
Starring: AI-generated
Run Time: 1h 29m
Rating: NR
Release Date: December 1, 2023