Multiple genres collide in director Rob Schroeder’s debut feature film Ultrasound. As the film opens, we meet Glen (Vincent Kartheiser), driving on a rainy night before his car runs over a crudely put together spike strip of nails and wood. He finds refuge in the nearby home of Art (Bob Stephenson) and his wife Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez). The two are kindly enough, and Art insists that Glen stay the night — the local garage won’t open until morning, and the nearest hotel is too far away. Art has the air of someone who tells people way too much about himself on first meeting them, and after he and Glen get suitably drunk, Art asks Glen to sleep with Cyndi. It’s a surprising turn, but is by far the least shocking moment in a film full of twists and reveals.
Once Glen leaves Art’s house after that weird and fateful night, he hopes he will not see either of them again. Until that is, Art turns up at Glen’s apartment telling him that Cyndi is pregnant. Glen and Cyndi get together and after what appears to be a nervous breakdown, they are swiftly moved off to a research facility in the middle of nowhere and are put through a series of experiments. Taking cues from the Christopher Nolan school of mind bending, Ultrasound works until it doesn’t.
It’s hard to know who to trust in Ultrasound, and it’s even harder to keep track of what is going on. While this seems intentional from Schroeder, the issue that runs through the film is that while it may be mysterious, it is also far too confusing. Maybe there is reward after multiple viewings, and there is the sense of a cult classic in the making, but films like this have been done before — and have been done better in the recent and underrated 2018 film Unsane, from Steven Soderbergh. Ultrasound is more of a curiosity than anything else. It has good performances, with Breeda Wool excellent as the researcher with a conscience who wants to help Glen and Cyndi break free from the facility they are being held in. But, it never really goes anywhere, and the points it raises have little or no payoff which results in a film that is promising, yet utterly frustrating at the same time.
Ultrasound is out on digital download from 20 June.
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