• Charlie Vogelsang

The Instinct (2020) Review

A strange disease develops and eliminates human actions making them more animalistic in this dystopian short film by Unryu Sudo.

Known as animal instinct syndrome, a new kind of strange disease infects people in The Instinct. Written and directed by Unryu Sudo, this film explores how loneliness can actually force people into becoming less human.

It starts by following a man known as Tamura (Asuma), who sees his girlfriend Lulu (Runa Mitsuzaki) develop symptoms of animal instinct syndrome. Tamura cares for her at first, but hits his limit when he finishes cleaning her up after she eats her own faeces.

It’s understood that she has adopted the spirit and mannerisms of a rabbit, and believes that eating her faeces will help her absorb nutrients as rabbits do. Lulu can no longer speak to Tamura, and life begins to become difficult and lonely for him.

He finally caves and sends her to a special treatment facility to try and cure her. Unfortunately, he learns there is no known cure and that the facility acts as a nature reserve to let people affected with animal instinct syndrome live out their lives in peace. Over time, Lulu begins to enjoy her time there. She meets another person infected and begins to repress her animalistic urges.

The Instinct is a dark little film that feels like an episode of Black Mirror

The premise of The Instinct is so terrifying but believable. As technology evolves, human contact becomes less prevalent. Loneliness is a huge problem in Japan, with many people becoming more like hermits and embracing loneliness rather than seeking treatment. It’s known as kodokushi, and half a million people in Japan are known to suffer with this - but it’s thought this figure could be higher.

In The Instinct, the director explores an extreme reaction to kodokushi. He makes the film more of a science-fiction affair with dystopian elements, but it tackles an important issue. It feels like Unryu Sudo is making a commentary on the culture and how it really needs to change. It’s frightful to see how these people are just left to be abandoned in a nature reserve by their loved ones, and expected to get better after being pushed even more into loneliness.

The visuals are simple but effectively show what is needed. Surprisingly, the sound design is the most jarring, yet it is still brilliant. The music is often radically different to what is being shown on-screen, creating a sinister and daunting tone that will truly shake you up.

The Instinct is a dark little film that feels like an episode of Black Mirror. It shows a dystopian world riddled by a virus that anyone could get.


Available to watch for free on YouTube.