GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Isaac Ezban.
Starring Georgia King, Aml Ameen, Martin Wallström, Mark O’Brien, Kathleen Quinlan, David Harewood.
Sci-fi/Thriller, Canada, 104 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on DVD and digital by 101 Films on 14th June 2021.
If you stumbled upon a hidden portal that gave you access to parallel worlds, what would you do? If your first thought was “Of course I’d use it to help develop my burgeoning parking app”, then you clearly must be a character in Isaac Ezban’s goofy yet thoroughly enjoyable sci fi thriller.
PARALLEL follows a group of four twentysomething friends who discover a mirror in their shared house that transports them to parallel dimensions. Their lives so far have been filled with failure and regret such as Leena (Georgia King) who hasn’t managed to fulfil her artistic ambitions and Devin (Aml Ameen) who has never gotten over a family tragedy. However, this magical discovery could finally be the break that they’ve been waiting for. Their jaunts into the multiverse start off harmless enough but very soon they start to get reckless. It’s not long before Noel (Martin Wallström) starts acting suspiciously and there also seems to be something unusual about Josh (Mark O’Brien). After finding diaries from the home’s previous owner, they discover that she eventually went insane… will they be next?
PARALLEL may be familiar to FrightFesters as it was shown during the 2018 Halloween event but is only now getting a DVD release.
This is Ezban’s first English language feature and I loved his previous film, THE SIMILARS, which was shown during FrightFest 2016. That was an incredibly unique and strikingly idiosyncratic Mexican take on THE TWILIGHT ZONE and it felt like something that I truly hadn’t seen before. PARALLEL is much more conventional but still has some unique quirks.
Firstly, it should be flagged that the promotional artwork for PARALLEL, depicting two of the leads with guns raised, is incredibly misleading. It appears to be emulating the posters for big budget sci fi action like LOOPER or TENET. However, it’s not that kind of film at all, it’s a much more low-key sci-fi drama with some thriller elements.
Since I was expecting a low budget Christopher Nolan knock off, I was braced with low expectations but, to my pleasant surprise, I was sucked in by the genuinely arresting and intriguing opening scene. Perhaps this is just lockdown brain, but throughout the film I couldn’t tell exactly where the story was going. It is obvious that things are ultimately going to go awry but exactly what the turning point would be kept me guessing. Also, the lead character that we focus on changes throughout, which also kept me on my toes.
The cast was solid, there’s no weak link. In the sitcom-ish first quarter they feel like they’ve been imported from NEW GIRL and they are just the right side of obnoxiousness and mostly manage to maintain a likeability in spite of later questionable actions. The only actor that I was previously familiar with was David Harewood, who has a small role, but the rest of the cast have all featured in supporting roles in bigger projects before.
It could annoy some viewers, but I enjoyed the slightly eccentric narrative choices that I feel would have been questioned, and removed, in a bigger film with more studio oversight. For instance, there’s a completely inexplicable scene where Noel and Josh dress up as Don Corleone (even imitating the Brando mumble) and explode a massive pile of money in spite of this very much not being something that happens in THE GODFATHER. This action also directly leads them to first discovering that the parallel worlds have subtle differences by them happening to unearth a discarded DVD case for a Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone Frankenstein movie (which unfortunately, as you may realise, doesn’t exist in our universe).
Maybe it helped that I came in with such low expectations, so I don’t want to overly hype this as it certainly isn’t an amazing piece of cinema, but I had a really good time. It perhaps wouldn’t hold up on second viewing when plot holes and dumb character decisions become more apparent but honestly, I enjoyed the cheap and earnest silliness of PARALLEL a lot more than the smugly incomprehensible bombast of TENET. So, if you are in the mood for a slightly daft but entertaining Sci fi B-Movie then give PARALLEL a watch.