Imagine yourself locked in a box. It can be an elevator, a coffin, the big piece of cardboard your fridge came in – it really doesn’t matter. The fact is you’re stuck inside. No escape hatches, no brightly lit exit signs, no Harry Houdinis. How does it feel? At first, no big deal. Eventually the walls look as though they’re closing in on all sides and you start to imagine that you’re with Han, Leia, Luke and Chewie in the garbage compactor. You look around quickly, to the left, to the right, up above, down below, hoping to find a way out but there’s none to be found. Your breathing gets heavier. Moisture starts to form on your brow. Anxiety leads to panic.
Although it doesn’t quite take you to the brinks of madness and hysteria, Paranoia 1.0 has the look and feel of being a tour guide into the rejected film ideas of David Lynch or David Cronenberg. Six Feet Under‘s Jeremy Sisto plays Simon J, a shelled in computer programmer whose behind schedule and feeling the heat for it. When he’s not holed up in his cluttered apartment. Simon’s out getting some milk or trying to figure out his oddball neighbors. Weirdness ensues as empty boxes keep showing up on Simon’s doorstep. There’s nothing inside, no return address, no reason for being.
Paranoia 1.0 is a cryptic head scratcher. It’s obvious from the first few minutes that there’s secrets being withheld from Simon and from the audience. Keeping up with the turns is often a challenge, but writer/directors Jeff Renfroe and Mateinn Thorsson do a decent job.
While the story is very original combining the techno-edge of The Matrix with Orson Welles’ The Trial, it’s the mood and atmosphere where the filmmakers really shine. The movie is set in a dingy near future where everything looks as though it has been drawn over with a rusty nail. It’s dark and claustrophobic to the point where I felt as thought I was stuck in a box of my own. The camera work only adds to the dizzying look. It’s constantly moving alongside quick edits and frequent zooms.
A gauge I use to judge whether or not I think a film is successful is whether or not it makes me genuinely feel something. It might be happiness, it can be anger, it could also be hunger – anything. Paranoia 1.0 is one of few films that has actually made me feel like I was stuck in a squished elevator with the fluorescent lights flickering. It made me feel pangs of panic even as I watched it from the comfort of my couch in a very open room filled with ample sunlight. With that it makes it a little easier to overlook the film’s few shortcomings in sense and plot and celebrate its drudgery feeling.
Paranoia 1.0 Trailer