Altered States of Plaine: Film Review

Altered States of Plaine Still - H 2014
Gary Robinson

Altered States of Plaine Still - H 2014

This heavily caffeinated effort has style, if not narrative coherence, to spare.

Nick Gaglia's low-budget sci-fi thriller concerns a young man who falls asleep only to wake up in random places around the globe.

Displaying considerable stylistic finesse if not narrative coherence, Nick Gaglia's (Over the GW) Altered States of Plaine is being billed as the second in his series of films dealing with "the ill-effects of institutional rehabilitation." While that description provides some context to the director’s explanation that his film is an allegory for what it’s like growing up with post-traumatic stress disorder, it does little to elucidate the murkiness of his sci-fi thriller about a young man who suffers from a condition in which he falls asleep only to wake up in random place around the globe.

The film's jolting opening depicts Emanuel Plaine (George Gallagher, delivering a fiercely physical, compelling turn) waking up naked in a New York City subway car, understandably confused as to how he got there. It turns out that this has been happening since childhood, which makes the prospect of his going to sleep a cause for concern.

Breaking into an apartment to steal some clothing, he comes upon a prostitute, Violet (Kether Donohue), and her violent John who he manages to subdue. Grateful for having been rescued, she joins the troubled young man on a road trip to Baltimore, where he hopes to get some answers from a physics professor who has some expertise on the subject. Meanwhile, he finds himself being pursued by a mysterious government agency that clearly has nefarious purposes.

Reminiscent of films ranging from Ken Russell’s Altered States to Christopher Nolan’s Memento among many others, this ambitious effort certainly succeeds in conveying a surreal atmosphere thanks to inventive optical, editing and sound effects that are all the more skillful for having been devised on an obviously low budget. Marc Ribler and Jon St. James’ propulsive music score adds further tension to the proceedings.

But despite some evocative moments -- such as when the desperate Emanuel asks, "What is it like to dream?" -- the film is too elliptical and fragmented to have the desired impact. It ultimately leaves the viewer, much like its hero, in a state of dazed confusion.

Opens May 2 (Over the GW Productions)

Cast: George Gallagher, Kether Donohue, Michael Mathis, Donald Pritt, Barry Bergman

Director: Nick Gaglia

Screenwriters: Nick Gaglia, George Gallagher, Kether Donohue

Producers: Nick Gaglia, Kether Donohue, Alexander Hammer

Executive producer: George Gallagher

Director of photography: Jon Fordham

Editor: Alexander Hammer

Composers: Marc Ribler, Jon St. James

Not rated, 82 minutes