By Jonny Zeller | Sci-Fi
A cadet discovers the master sergeant has a massive sore in a world where lies leave scars.

Aris is on a bus, on her way to a special camp. In a world where a person's lies show up as cuts and scars on their skin, the people going to this camp have a clear propensity for lying. But as part of both reform and punishment, they're going to a kind of boot camp, which will train them as soldiers in an ongoing war.

But as a young cadet, Aris and her fellow trainees are berated and insulted not just as new soldiers, but as pathological liars and scourges of society. But then she discovers her new master sergeant has a massive scar on his back, wondering just what kind of lies could create something so gruesome.

Set in a world where a person's lies show up as scars on their skin, this short -- directed by Jonny Zeller and written by Bryan Bagby -- clearly exists within the sci-fi genre, expertly building tension with each turn of the plot and sparking intrigue with its imaginative worldbuilding. But it uses the idea of a visible morality to explore notions of truth and honesty, especially as they have an immediate impact on someone's reputation and image.

The world of the film is close to our own, but for its central conceit and a few advances in weaponry. Rendered with sleek visuals and a thriller's sense of adrenaline in the pacing and editing, its narrative takes advantage of its boot camp's setting, with its mix of strong personalities, high-pressure situation and the stakes of a world where dishonesty is etched on the body for all the world to see.

This combination elicits plenty of sui generis conflict, especially as the cadets try to survive and get through their training. Brought to life by a compelling, eminently watchable cast led by actor Meg DeLacy, they spar, compete and bond in equal measures, particularly as they collectively grow suspicious and resentful of their leadership. When they discover the massive, hidden scar of their master sergeant, they try to unravel its secret, leading to a sequence of events that leads to unexpected tragedy.

Compelling, entertaining and intriguing in equal measure, the world of "Scars" and its teeming cast of characters invites expansion into a larger story. And like many of the best stories of its genre, it invites a more philosophical vein of reflection amid the action sequences. Where would we sit in this world, and how scarred would our skin be? How would our scars change our relationships, or how people saw us -- and how far would we go to hide them? And, as the high-wire act of the film's conclusion draws to a close, we scrutinize the relationship between truth and compassion, and just how complicated it turns out to be.

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