'Between Worlds': Film Review

Not as wild as many Cage vehicles, but gonzo enough.

Nicolas Cage and Franka Potente star in Maria Pulera's supernatural thriller tinged with dark humor.

Nicolas Cage can put another notch in his gonzo cinema belt with writer-director Maria Pulera's supernatural thriller Between Worlds. While not quite up to the outrageousness level of so many Cage vehicles in recent years, the pic features enough WTF moments to satisfy the prolific actor's many fans who can't wait to see what he's up to next.

In the film, Cage plays Joe, a trucker who looks like his self-description: "I smell like three days on the road." Joe's manginess is understandable since he's still mourning the death of his wife and daughter. The story begins with Joe coming upon a woman being strangled in a gas station bathroom by a man he promptly beats up.

The woman, Julie (Franka Potente), is upset rather than grateful for Joe's intervention. It seems she had arranged the violent encounter because ever since she nearly drowned as a young girl, she's had the power to leave her body during near-death experiences. She's particularly desperate to use that ability right now in order to save her daughter Billie (Penelope Mitchell), who's in a hospital and hovering between life and death after a motorcycle accident.

Thanks to Julie's ability to cross over to the other side, Billie winds up making a full recovery. Joe moves in with mother and daughter, frequently engaging in torrid sexual couplings with the former. More disturbingly, sexpot Billie begins coming on to Joe and soon succeeds in seducing him. But it's not as perverse as it seems, because, as Billie explains, her body has been possessed by the spirit of Joe's dead wife. Cue more frenzied copulation, with Cage engaging in more onscreen sex than he has since his Wild at Heart days.

Speaking of that film, this effort strains for a distinct David Lynchian vibe with its combination of strangeness and black comedy. As he did in the recent Mandy, Cage makes an appearance in some very unflattering underwear. But the biggest meta joke occurs during one of the sex scenes, when Joe accompanies his frenzied pelvic thrusting with a recitation from a book: the cover reads Memories, by Nicolas Cage. The tome is apparently a conceit of the film, but seeing it makes you want to start a crowdfunding campaign encouraging Cage to write it for real.

Veering heavily into sexual territory, Between Worlds is more gothic melodrama than horror film. It certainly feels like a waste not only of Cage's talent (although the actor has a climactic, literally fiery scene that will forever change the way you think about the pop song "Leader of the Pack"), but also of Potente, whose potential has been sadly underrealized in American films. Nonetheless, both acquit themselves admirably here, if only for their ability to keep a straight face during the film's more outlandish moments. Viewers, on the other hand, may find themselves frequently succumbing to the giggles.   

Production company: Rise Up
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Franka Potente, Penelope Mitchell, Garrett Clayton, Lydia Hearst, Brit Shaw, Hopper Penn
Director-screenwriter: Maria Pulera
Producers: Eric Banoun, David Hillary, Maria Pulera
Executive producer: Jim Agnew
Director of photography: Thomas Hencz
Production designer: Dins Danielsen
Costume designer: Bonnie Stauch
Music: Jason Solowsky
Editor: Tim Silano
Casting: Judy Cook

Rated R, 90 minutes