Writer: Conor Stechschulte
Director: Rob Schroeder
This trippy sci-fi begins like a torture porn when Glen, driving home from a wedding, is lured into a house in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. His hosts are affable but, of course, they have ulterior motives and they appear to be drugging his shots of vodka. Events become even creepier when the man suggests that Glen sleep with his wife Cyndi. But nothing in this film is as it first appears.
Rob Schroeder’s Ultrasound has more twists than a double-stranded helix, and even though Conor Stechschulte’s story is preposterous, their film is always intriguing, with the audience being given information on the strictest need-to-know basis. Other narratives encroach on the main story – a politician’s wife feels trapped in her new home, another woman starts a new job in a rehabilitation facility – without contextualisation and interpretation is slippery at best.
Things become stranger when Glen receives a visitor early one morning a few months after the night his car broke down. Art, his host from that night, announces that Cyndi is pregnant and Glen needs to go and see her. At the same time Glen receives a text from Cyndi telling him to somehow lose her husband and see her alone instead. Improbably, Glen and Cyndi become a couple of sorts. It’s not until halfway in that the film flashes its sci-fi credentials. Now everything is built on lies.
Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser plays Glen as an extremely average Joe, and his very ordinariness makes him an odd sort of hero. Kartheiser’s duped guy could be anyone of us. Chelsea Lopez is a vulnerable Cyndi and it’s a credit to the actor that we don’t know the extent of her involvement in the web in which Glen is caught. The villains, however, are easier to spot. There’s prolific actor Bob Stephenson’s Art whose manners can’t disguise that he’s up to something while the rehabilitation facility’s manager, played by Tunde Adebimpe, surely must be one of the bad guys with all the mansplaining he does to his new recruit, Shannon. The latter, played by Breeda Wool, is cool but nervy, an apt description for the film in general.
With flashes of Amazon Prime’s series Homecoming, it too set in an occupational health unit, Ultrasound is also reminiscent of the days of Peter Cushing and Hammer films from the 60s. The sci-fi is extremely low-tech, and so the focus here is on the story and the acting rather than the special effects, and it is better for it. It’s a small drama – there are only a few locations – but the film gestures to a wider world of right-wing politics. Reactionary political parties may try anything to get the support of the electorate, whether we know it or not. This is a thoughtful and paranoid film that will have you second-guessing throughout.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Ultrasound on Digital Download 20 June.