[New York Independent Film Festival] Alt Space (2018) - Reviewed

Of the many futuristic movies that permeated my childhood, films that had a futuristic look were much more my style than movies that used technology to advance its storyline. There are exceptions to that rule, but a science fiction movie that uses technology has to have top notch acting and a really strong story to get me to pay attention.

As I sat down to watch Cody Kussoy’s Alt Space, I checked my own feelings at the door. What I got was an interesting look at the psychological escape of both drugs and Virtual Reality as the walls between the two worlds dissolve.

Mr. Kusoy’s unique visual style lends itself to this type of psychological thriller storytelling, and is becoming a trend by other filmmakers. In Alt Space, he marries the real world and the virtual world by using a psychosis of his character’s minds to tell his story. Julian (Alex Boniello) has many fears, which he controls by using drugs. He also uses virtual reality as a means to hide from his fears. His girlfriend Liv (Shanley Caswell) has her own set of psychological issues, for which she turns to Hunter (Micah Parker) to help her resolve.

As the lines of realities dissolve, an interesting love twist happens turning friend into foe. It is this last part where I took some issue with the storytelling. The concept is strong, but the third act’s walls collapse on themselves rather than dissolve into one another. This is the danger of a trend I’m noticing where the point of view is the protagonist. It definitely makes for an interesting way to tell a story, but the main characters must be strong enough to support a vantage point.

Here, the basis for Julian’s psychosis and the end result didn’t gel for me and the reason is because he chose to hide from his fears rather than facing them head on. It wasn’t until he interacted with Hunter where that happened. An interesting aspect of the love triangle is the relationship between Julian and Liv. One wonders why they broke down and why they couldn’t help one another through their own challenges. Hunter might have offered Liv some sort of respite, but her own struggles couldn’t be compensated for and it was too easy for her to fall into a trap of recurring nightmare.

I can see where Mr. Kusoy was trying to get to with his story. The combination of overly-worn apartment, displaying their squalor with a down and out type story has been told before. Escaping reality by using Virtual Reality has also been done before. By using the two worlds to tell a gripping thriller, we should have had the makings of a love story gone wrong. The trap is that the characters weren’t strong enough to gel the realities together.

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-Ben Cahlamer