DISTORTED—gawd, if ever a project lived up to its name; this 2018 turd twists itself into a tasteless pretzel long before its 86th minute consumes a precious piece of your time on Earth. The only thing it has going for it is the presence of Christina Ricci, who is the focus of the plot, and in nearly every scene, even though John Cusack co-stars. He doesn’t show up until 42 minutes in, and then is only on hand for a few brief, ridiculous scenes (okay, every scene is ridiculous). What either of them saw in this besides a quick paycheck is a psychological mystery. *
Apparently bi-polar, plagued by nightmares, depressed after losing her child, ‘Lauren’ (Ricci) moves to a new place her husband ‘Russell’ (Brendan Fletcher) has picked out; a deluxe, high-tech, high-security apartment in a tranquil countryside setting. Haywire becomes habitual when Lauren experiences a series of bizarre actions (from neighbors) and images (beamed through their TV and speaker system). Contacting a “specialist” (Cusack), she discovers the building is part of a nefarious mind-control scheme. Of course, the husband, a dweeb of the lowest order, doesn’t believe her. Or maybe she’s losing it for real.
If you’ve seen other heroine-trapped-in-paranoia-laced-setting setups, you know she’s on to something besides tranquilizer’s. We’ve been there with Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, 1BR, etc., etc. Fair enough, but having a viable heroine (it’s nearly always a woman who’s trapped) isn’t enough. Useful elements might include a script that makes sense, a director who knows what they’re doing, and co-stars who can act better than football players. Other than the always interesting (and fetching) Ricci—hair dyed blonde, maybe to vainly summon Marnie or a similar Hitchcock dame in dire straits?—the presentation here is uniformly terrible. Is this Cusack’s laziest performance? He seems embarrassed. The supporting actors are as weak as the pretend-deep gibberish they’re given to recite, badly. As the insufferable husband, Brendan Fletcher’s cringing “mumblecore” delivery is particularly maddening—you want to reach into the screen and backhand slap him. The plot points are slapped together with pathetic indifference to any logic whatsoever, even the schizophrenic sort. Utter hogwash.
Filmed in British Columbia, around Vancouver and Kelowna. Arne Olsen bears responsibility for the atrocious script. Rob W. King did what would normally be called ‘directing’. Herr King had just unloaded The Humanity Bureau, with Nicolas Cage, apparently sharing the same boot polish on his hair that Cusack used. Did they flip a coin for the roles? Extra tip: if you don’t appreciate strobe’y flash images of the disturbing type—as in “Kill the child“— being repeatedly zonked at you to the point of homicide, you might want to skip this warp fest.
* “Do it quick, grab the dough, no one will ever see it anyway.” As to absent money, this wank ranked rock bottom on both stars credit lists. Lots of good movies fail to make much money, or get due notice. No shame there. “Good” does not apply in this instance. Credit for trying can and should always be extended (here, to Ricci, anyway), but sometimes failure served is deserved. The IMDB reports a gross of $29,103 (maybe Cusack paid friends to show up?) and a ranking in 2018 of…371st. That 8mm zombie attack you shot, in the back yard, in 7th grade, did better. And was better. If only Christina Ricci had been around in 7th grade. Or at 7:00 last night…