Dir: Jeff Renefroe + Marteinn Thorsson
Star: Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Unger, Bruce Payne, Udo Kier
a.k.a. Paranoia 1.0
In these Wal-Mart days, big corporation are a source of paranoia as much as big government: perhaps a key influence here is the novels of William Gibson, which posit a future controlled, more or less openly, by what he called “zaibatsu“. This can be seen in Alien where the crew of the Nostromo are largely deemed expendable pawns by Weyland-Yutani, and possibly even HAL’s behaviour in 2001 – Blade Runner is another touchstone. I’m discussing such matters here, to try and avoid spoilers: though even mentioning the concept of corporate conspiracy may do so. Sigh. Such is the world of paranoid cinema. I am authorized to reveal, that Simon J (Sisto) is a programmer on a deadline, living in a decrepit apartment, with Kier, Payne and Unger as neighbours. You just know things are going to come to a bad end, when you discover Lance Henriksen is the block handyman.
This starts with a mysterious, but apparently empty, package appearing in Simon’s flat; despite his increasing security precautions, they continue to arrive. From here, it devolves into a stream of paranoid incidents: mysterious phone calls, sudden deaths, a craving for milk… The film has atmosphere in spades, and the potential to be a Kafkaesque classic 20 minutes in. The problem is, there isn’t enough character or plot development between there and the final revelations, to sustain the film – and what comes at the end seems insanely rushed. One senses a whole world worthy of exploration outside the apartment complex, but we never get further than the local corner-shop. While racking up the claustrophobia which is perhaps the paranoid film-maker’s best asset, this may be a case where the film-makers (both cast + crew) are too good for their own material, and would have been more challenged by a more ambitious script. The directors are now working on an adaptation of Bill Sienkiewicz’s graphic novel, Stray Toaster, which will be worth a look, and they seem like a talent worth keeping under surveillance…