Kaleidoscope is one of those flicks that feels like three different movies superglued together. The first half gives you the impression it’s going to be a Hard Candy-esque “perils of online dating” mindscrew, but the second half turns into a mother-son melodrama reminiscent of Bates Motel. And the third act is basically a riff on the grand finale of American Psycho, where you’re forced to second guess the diegetic authenticity of everything that happened before it.
Not everything Kaleidoscope hoists upon the audience is effective, but it has its moments. Clearly, this IFC Midnight release is trying really hard to not get categorized as your dime a dozen slasher/psycho-murderer movie, and it practically beats you over the head screaming “it’s an artsy psychological thriller, not a plebeian horror movie!” every chance it gets.
As for the plot, we’ve got Toby Jones (yep, the guy who voiced Dobby in Harry Potter and played Claudius Templesmith in The Hunger Games) portraying this nerdy dude who spends half the movie wearing the gaudiest shirt ever designed and lumbering around his apartment complex staring at stuff with his mouth open. You see, the night before, he had this woman he met on some Internet dating site over and they had one or 14 too many glasses of cranberry juice and vodka and danced to some Eurotrash rave music ‘til she started puking everywhere. And when he went for his morning constitutional, let’s just say there was something left in the bathroom that’s almost certainly gonna’ cost him that upfront security deposit.
There’s a lot of crucial plot in-between I don’t want to spoil for you, but eventually Toby’s mama shows up out of the blue and starts pestering him about finding a wife and chain smokes in his living room, because apparently that’s something they still do in Europe. Then she offers him a plane ticket to Canada for seemingly no discernible reason, and then Toby flips open the morning paper and there’s a big spread about this guy who’s been running around hacking women’s legs off and … well, I ain’t gonna’ spoil that for you, either, but let’s just say that plane ticket to Canada gets a whole lot more desirable in a real hurry.
So yeah, it’s basically your old-fashioned murder whodunnit with a very unreliable narrator. There’s not a lot of gore getting splashed around, and really, there isn’t that much horror, either, since the bulk of the movie revolves around Toby trying to figure out if he is or isn’t a serial murderer. So I guess you could call it more of a suspense movie, except … well, there isn’t a whole lot of suspense to be found, honestly.
But you know what you do get? Plenty of scenes with Toby running around with his bugged eyes about to pop out of his skull, which is entertaining even when the rest of the movie isn’t.
Let’s hit the highlights, why don’t we? We’ve got two dead bodies (or maybe just one dead body, or perhaps even no dead bodies, depending on your perspective.) No nudity. No car chases. About two teaspoons of blood. One gruesome knee injury. Gratuitous upclose shots of hoop earrings and cigarette butts. A gratuitous malfunctioning washing machine subplot. An even more gratuitous implied incest subplot. One destroyed heater. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place–some major hangover fu.
Starring Toby Jones as Carl, our greatly confused protagonist who wears a shirt that looks like something Andy Warhol threw up; Sinead Matthews as Abby, Carl’s Tinder date who keeps asking him one too many questions about his mama; Anne Reid as Aileen, Carl’s overbearing mother who refuses to leave his apartment; and Cecilia Noble as the kindly Caribbean woman next door who keeps making fun of Carl for trying to get laid through computer dating.
Written and directed by Rupert Jones, who’s probably best known for … well, this movie, I guess.
It ain’t the best psychological thriller to come down the pipes this year, but the cinematography is pretty good and Toby Jones definitely turns in a fun performance. As long as you aren’t expecting Jacob’s Ladder or The Silence of the Lambs, you probably won’t hate it … that much, anyway. Kaleidoscope hits select theaters and VOD December 8th.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Rupert Jones
Writer(s): Rupert Jones
Stars: Toby Jones, Sinead Matthews, Anne Reid, Cecilia Noble
Release: In select theaters, on VOD, and other digital platforms Dec. 8
Length: 100 minutes
Sub-Genre: Psychological thriller