29th Jan2019

‘Distorted’ VOD Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Christina Ricci, John Cusack, Brendan Fletcher, Vicellous Shannon, Nicole Anthony, Oliver Rice, Gigi Jackman, Benjamin DeWalt, Maja Milkovich, Scott Olynek, Angela Quinn, Sophia Daly | Written by Arne Olsen | Directed by Rob King

distorted-poster

The premise here is modern, SAFE (they emphasise that a lot in the sales material and then throughout the film) out of town (that is important) apartment that is able to lock out the horrors of the outside world but in doing so traps the horrors within.

When we see the apartment for the first time we get a long, lingering drive shot of what looks like one of those tacky doctored photos you see showing what the new block of flats is going to look like in the latest City gentrification project. They always seem to feature attractive ladies laughing and drinking white wine (“starting at only £225,000”!). If you are looking to build suspense and horror there are probably better ways to go about it (unless you got beaten up by the police in a miners strike).

Maybe if we say the word “scared” enough in the script maybe it will be “scary”? Alas, I am “afraid” not.

Although if you have a fear of waggling lavatory door handles you are going to spend some time hiding behind the sofa, albeit you probably have bigger problems.

Early on we get a fancy English person in a fancy suit to run us through the different features of the apartment complex our heroes (Ricci plus hipster glasses boyfriend) are going to be contending with – cameras, different smells in the lift and multi functional games room. The maintenance fees in this place are going to be more terrifying than anything even Stephen King could think up. Interestingly the fancy estate agent talks at length about the communal features, then once they get into the fancy, expensive apartment he leaves them to wonder around while he looks on his phone. We all like going on our phones, especially at work but it is frowned upon while you are half way through giving a presentation to a client (believe me I have tried).

During a jump scare I was more anxious that our protagonists were about to get locked out of their apartment, the suspense for that mild inconvenience was figuratively killing me (they didn’t by the way). It reminded me of Hitchcock and the bomb under the table..

Will that door gently shut behind our middle class dolts??

It is not clear where our 30 something couple made their money to move into the fancy tower of doom but they do attend a fancy party once they moved in where the party goers make sure they are all equal distances from each other and make nonsensical comments about art movements, as one does when one is trying to impress.

Christina Ricci and John Cusack are both actors I like very much but they both somehow find themselves appearing in Distorted which is like, so goesh darlings. Perhaps their careers have (somehow) become apt metaphors for the film itself. Albeit Cusack has one of those “and” roles where he would be the big star who only did a day of filming and has a small role but they get to say AND on the poster. If I had to guess (I don’t) then I would guess they are both going through expensive divorces. Possibly from two agents.

The graphic artistry is extremely slick and professional, the cast is far better than it has any right to be however the direction is up to daytime TV standard at best (Rob King is the man behind the camera). I generally don’t like to single out specific people but as some point I might do some analysis on the kind of shots and angles that just somehow immediately make the film look cheap, even if it wasn’t and this film has really “corners the market” on this.

The attempts to build suspense just fall flat, the silly exterior shots are followed up by a glitch in an ipad app, a slightly loud espresso machine and a man humming. Be still my beating heart. There is a hint at wider society breaking down but the film just feels empty. If we compare it to the works of George Romero in The Crazies where he brings societal unrest to unbearable levels and a sense of mania, here we just have a bland, modern, empty canvas. Nothing here is joined up, nothing builds into something else, the film is a storage locker of themes and ideas that someone has collected and left next to each other in no particular design or order.

As our heroine’s demons start to weigh down on her in the second act we get flickering images of womb scans, apples rotting.. If that was too subtle for us she then imagines giant words flashing up. She then starts googling “mind control” and I literally had no idea why. From this point (spoiler alert) we get caught up in a “mild thriller” (I am being kind) about Government conspiracies. A bland, witless episode of The X-Files perhaps. John Cusack whispers a lot, which from a film point of view is a mistake. Remember, the couples that shoot people dead together, stay together.

The premise of the film, very broadly speaking is a good one. If you like the sound of it you should go and read High Rise the classic horror story from the 1970s (it is not very long and is absolutely wonderful). Failing that, if you are put off by the idea of reading a short novel then Ben Wheatley turned it into a masterful film a few years back.

If horrifying cohabitation in an apartment complex is what you are after there is of course Rosemary’s Baby. Do I recommend you watch Distorted? No, darlings. If it were a party snack it would be cheese and pineapple cocktail sticks.

Distorted is released on VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Sky Store on February 4th.

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