At the time of writing, this country was losing its mind over the very idea that a bakery is now selling vegan sausage rolls. While this was happening, I found myself having to sit through the utterly drab tech conspiracy thriller Distorted. The only thing that went through my mind while watching the film was: “Those sausage rolls will not be as half-baked as this.”
We can complain about food having real meat all we want, but let’s be real, as long as what we consume satisfies, nothing really matters. It is the same with movie consumption and Distorted does little to fulfil any conspiracy thriller needs.
Paranoid thrillers are at their best when the film gives the audience an enticing web of intrigue to ensnare its blissfully unaware protagonist. In this hodgepodge mess of better ideas seen elsewhere, a fragile pianist (Christina Ricci) finds herself battling oddball neighbours and creepy subliminal messaging in a state-of-the-art apartment home. There’re shades of Rosemary’s Baby and The Manchurian Candidate lurking in the shades of this underwritten damp squib of a movie.
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Distorted does well to highlight that unconventional crushes like John Cusack and Christina Ricci no longer have the same draw now as they didn’t in their 90s heyday. It’s difficult not to be frustrated at watching two considerable talents taking part in a feature that gives them nothing to get their teeth into. Is Ricci’s character paranoid or are unnamed forces out to get her? The real problem: Will the audience even care?
Director Rob King is clearly working on a film with certain restrictions, which can be seen in the brightly lit, limited locations and short running time. But is that an excuse for amateur logic gaps such as a paranoid character slapping her phone number up in what appears to be a public forum to absolute strangers? Just because a film can’t be bothering to explain itself properly, does this mean we should just believe it’s meant to be mystique?
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For all the film’s Mr. Robot style negative space framing and its one good jump scare, Distorted is quick to highlight itself as a film of all garnish and nothing of value. The idea of modern-day social anxiety and covert brainwashing is something worth investigating as areas of society plunge deeper into YouTube rabbit holes and encase themselves into societal tech bubbles. But Distorted has nothing interesting to say in its subtexts and the surface entertainment is nothing more than subpar.
Distorted does well to remind you however that films like Pi can do more with themes of conspiracy with a lot fewer resources. Twenty-one years on, it’s probably worth watching that with a vegan sausage roll to scoff down than spending one’s time here.
Distorted will be available on digital download from 4th February.