THE best parts of Annihilation do not play out on screen – they play out in your head.

Author-turned-director Alex Garland’s film is about an environmental disaster zone called ‘The Shimmer’ which is expanding across the American coastline.

Within the fluorescent sheen of The Shimmer the rules of time and nature do not apply and the landscape and mutated creatures within are as dangerous as they are beautiful. It is a bit like an X-Files episode dialled up to 11.

Why is it there? What does it mean? And will this phenomenon eventually spell doom for the wider world once it expands beyond control?

These are just some of the questions that ring through your head during the unsettling two-hour sci-fi thriller which flicks between three time periods.

You will not get any easy answers and Garland does hold your hand, rather leaving viewers to come up with their own interpretations.

The downside of that approach is that Annihilation is so open-ended that it may feel unsatisfactory to some.

There is a lot to praise in Garland’s work though. The story’s premise is dark and enticing and, as anyone who watched the filmmaker’s debut Ex Machina knows, this is where he excels .

The visuals of The Shimmer’s mutated world are just stunning and Garland keeps thing tense and atmospheric throughout meaning the movie’s horror aspects always leave you with a shiver. But the concept as a whole does not really work as a film. It just left me with the urge to read the Jeff VanderMeer novel it is based on so my imagination could really go wild.

What saves Annihilation is the strong female cast led by Natalie Portman. She plays Lena, a biologist and former soldier, who joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) inside The Shimmer.

Among the best parts of the film are not the cosmic, existential elements but the characters’ reactions to it.

You see it through their eyes as flawed individuals who all have their own reasons for stepping into the void with the movie also exploring the human urge to self destruct.

Visually distinctive and unique, Annihilation will no stand out from other 2018 releases but like The Shimmer it just does not feel quite right.

Annihilation is released on Netflix on Monday

RATING: 7/10