CAPSULE: Paul Grunning was a good cop broken by a professional case that brought him personal tragedy. While trying to put is life back together he is sent to an odd house only to find reality breaking down on him. Anything outside his sight may not be there when he looks again from another angle. First-time director Russ Pond directs a script by first-time writer Nicholas Turner and creates a nice low-budget crime thriller with some nice science fiction turns. It is the kind of idea that would have made for a very good "Twilight Zone" episode, but fleshed out. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
There is a lot more happening in FISSURE than meets the eye. Detective Paul Grunning (played by James MacDonald) has recently had a personal tragedy in his life. Right now it looks 50-50 whether he will make it back to being a good cop or be a basket case. He is sent on a simple job, a small domestic disturbance. When he gets to the house there is a dead man on the floor and this turns out to be a bigger case than he expected. But at least it is a kind of case he knows and should know what to do. His biggest problem: he has fallen into a world where reality seems unstable. Details of reality keep changing. A room may look one way and if he walks away and returns, the room is different. It is like his life has what would be called in film "continuity errors." In additions voices are heard from other rooms of the house where people cannot possibly be. And there is someone else in the house that Grunning and the viewer gets only flashes of. Is the cause the drugs he is taking to pacify him or is it something deeper? After all, the dead man is Professor Roger Ulster (Jim Blumetti), a man who seems to be experimenting with quantum physics. Or is this all a plot just to keep Grunning from finding the real truth of what went on? Whatever is going on, Grunning is crumbling under the pressures of the investigation that defies logic.
One odd touch is the casting of Vietnamese-American Todd Haberkorn as the Ulster's son. He does not look like either of his parents, a touch that could easily have been explained by a line of dialog saying he was adopted, but the line never comes. Jane Willingham plays Emma Ulster whose memory of her husband's death seems to be suppressed one moment and returns the next.
FISSURE was released to DVD on August 11, 2009, and is also being released as a web series. I think it is fine as just a feature film. Costing a reported one million dollars to make, it does not have the CGI and big stars of some of the summer competition, but Nicholas Turner's script is a good one and one that will keep the viewer guessing. Video production values are high and the film looks quite good on a minimal budget. It all supports my belief that the cheapest way to make a really good film is to have really good writing.
This film will bring back memories of films like MEMENTO, 21 GRAMS, and some time machine stories, but it is really very different. Nonetheless, that puts the film in very good company. If a film can do that, it is probably very good. This one is worth seeing. After seeing the film with a friend, be prepared for a discussion of what was really going on and if it all hangs together. (I think that it doesn't, but I will put that in a spoiler section follow the review.) I rate FISSURE a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0948745/
In some ways the story could not work this way, at least not without some explanation. Nobody seems to notice that Grunning had accurately predicted things that had not happened yet.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper