The Dead Center Film Review
The cult which accumulated approximately Shane Carruth — the polymath writer-director-performer who dreamed up the brilliant and baffling Primer and Upstream Colour — will probably wish to reconvene with this powerful low-key chiller where Carruth takes high acting charging, while devoting directing responsibilities to Billy Senese.
Using its twin-track storytelling, Senese’s movie owes less to Carruth’s filmography compared to upmarket TV fare such as True Detective along with the current Unbelievable. In a single story line, a conflicted, corner-cutting psych-ward physician (Carruth) engages using a naturopathic patient (Jeremy Childs) who revived at the morgue following a seemingly successful suicide attempt; at another, a medical examiner (Bill Feehely) heads to the area to research this John Doe obtained about the slab, and also the way he got off it.
Sensing any response may test authenticity, Senese builds a comprehensive, lived-in medical background, staffed with overstretched specialists who, while performing their best for a few profoundly traumatised people, realise their fees are in the mercy of forces they can’t control.
There is not much in this universe that is truly original. The psych ward’s extended corridors — if empty or overrun with insanity — are a terror staple; John Doe’s gift/curse inverts that of John Coffey, the life-giving lifer of The Green Mile; and Doe’s fascination with spirals is just one of many lifts out of post-millennial J-horror.
What is crucial is the way Senese and cinematographer Andy Duensing picture these components: , carefully, with a sense of distance and surrounding setting, and a hesitation to provide simple explanations which invites tantalising metaphorical readings, also counts as recognisably Carruthian.
As a standalone celebrity, Carruth is quite strong, and in reality smartly cast as a authority figure that demonstrates at least inscrutable-to-difficult as people in his or her care. Nevertheless the attention from physicians and camera alike makes this a much better showcase for its formerly unnoticed Childs, a bug-eyed, vertical existence whose agonised primal screams will seem bloodcurdling coming via the ideal theater audio system.