❉ “The only pleasure here is seeing that Nicky Henson is still getting work”, writes Iain MacLeod.
Subliminal messaging is an under used concept in cinema and television. The potential for its use in genre cinema could be thought of as one with vast possibilities for storytelling ideas, especially in today’s vastly divided political climate. Director Tom Sands, working from a script authored by his father Mick, takes this concept applying it to what first appears to be a conspiracy thriller. What you end up watching however is something very different indeed.
Holly Kane, portrayed by Kirsty Averton, is a psychologist with an interest in the subconscious mind and the effects of subliminal commands. In the background of her daily life in the constant hustle bustle of Brighton we hear constant radio reports warning of terrorist attacks that are forthcoming to the country. She meets Dennis, a paranoid Scotsman with romantic ideas and aged psychologist with deep connections and even deeper pockets, Marvin Greenslade, played by Nicky Henson. Greenslade seems very keen on using Holly’s experiments in reforming captured terrorists. Our titular heroine then soon begins to suspect that the men in her life may have nefarious designs on not only her work but herself also.
“Notions of paranoia, doubt or suspicion are completely ignored and we are instead subjected to nothing more than a patronising woman in peril narrative, culminating in what surely has to be one of the worst and distasteful bedroom moves ever committed to screen.”
What starts off as a paranoid conspiracy thriller soon reveals itself to be a small scale domestic thriller with political thriller elements that are nothing more than window dressing. The radio broadcasts vanish abruptly from the film serving no purpose whatsoever. Sands feels no need to explore the concept of subliminal messaging or its effects, or even apparently how it works. I myself am no expert but Holly’s technique of recording a command and then playing it back really fast seems a bit threadbare.
Notions of paranoia, doubt or suspicion are completely ignored and we are instead subjected to nothing more than a patronising woman in peril narrative, culminating in what surely has to be one of the worst and distasteful bedroom moves ever committed to screen. Seriously, you’ll know it when you see it. (As well as one of the worst sex scenes ever this film also contains one of cinemas most embarrassingly inept hallucination scenes too. If I had taken something and seen that I’d be looking for my receipt.)
This paper-thin plot is stretched needlessly out to over one hundred minutes. And half of that consists of scenes where Holly meets Marvin or James or her friend Jeannie in bars or restaurants to discuss the plot. Not an exaggeration, this film must be in the running for breaking the record for most restaurant, cafe and bar scenes ever in a single feature. At least the Brighton catering trade did well out of this.
The only pleasure here is seeing that Nicky Henson is still getting work. He’s come a long way since leading The Living Dead, the greatest/worst cinema biker gang ever from Psychomania. Dennis, played by James Rose, is written as a mysterious, ex-military loner but portrayed like Travis Bickle played by Michael Crawford. And spare a thought for Kirsty Averton who has to carry this whole thing, she fails to bring any life to Holly, but when a character is as poorly written as this one it is hard to blame her.
Sympathy isn’t really felt here for the character but the actress. The film may think it has something to say about men and misogyny but, and especially in the last instance, it only revels in putting such abuse on screen. The film attempts to right itself by putting everything right with a conclusion attempting to channel Paul Greengrass but it has neither the competence or style to pull this off. And then in its final act of audience defiance it gives us one more café scene. Maybe the point of the film has been subliminally telling us to support our local eateries or something.
I’m off for a pint.
❉ ‘The Holly Kane Experiment’ is available on VoD in UK (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vimeo on Demand). Available on VoD in North America. Running Time: 103 mins.
❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.