Outside the multiplex, the natives were restless.

Within, vaguely embarrassed-looking police officers prowled the aisles, searching for signs of midnight-expressed camcorders. There was a buzz, a hum of barely contained anticipation verging on stampeding mania. Even the wild 'n' wacky radio station guy seemed oddly sedated, cowed perhaps by the impending wave of nerd-gasm before him. An understandably nervous studio rep read from a prepared statement, expounding on the significance and brilliance of what we were about to see. Ill-fitting trenchcoats, sunglasses at night, and state-of-the-art cell phones flooded the vision.

Even before the unbarring of the theater doors, it was apparent that the unruly herd of pass-holders, while ostensibly there for an advance screening of Dreamcatcher, clearly viewed Stephen King's monster saga as a mildly unpleasant prelude to the real gravy of the evening: Final Flight of the Osiris--an animated short promising to serve up oodles of techno-buttery Matrix goodness. Part of The Animatrix, an upcoming DVD consisting of cartoon glimpses into the world surrounding Keanu and his leather, Osiris was reputed to blow minds, as well as lead directly into the upcoming pair of official sequels. (Check out www.intothematrix.com for more information.)

As the feature presentation stumbled to its rib-splitting finale--Warner Brothers, wisely decided to place the short after the movie--hungry eyes darted over the closing credits, many perhaps pondering the mysterious terms "best boy" and "key grip" for the very first time. Nine minutes later, aching brains struggled to make sense of what they had just seen, which appeared to be a whiplash-paced exercise in depicting half-naked women with swords fleeing legions of long-tentacled robots. Those polled later agreed they had a newfound respect for the recent advances in CGI ass-rendering technology. The crowd went wild. Some lit cigarettes. ANDREW WRIGHT