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The Boston Globe


Movie Review

Putting the trance back into Transcendentalist

Henry David Thoreau plays an enigmatic role in Shane Carruth’s hypnotic thriller — an oxymoronic term to describe a film that is truly sui generis. The reclusive, 19th-century Transcendentalist’s “Walden” provides a key link in a circular conspiracy that extends from a pig farm to the frontiers of consciousness. Is this Philip K. Dick-like plot benevolent or malignant or none of the above? Figuring that out is just one of the film’s sanity-stretching pleasures. More lyrical than Carruth’s stunning debut feature, “Primer,” it seems at various times like the work of a more spiritual David Cronenberg or a more malign Terrence Malick. Above all it is seductive; and while I feel compelled to see it again, I don’t have high hopes that it will make any more sense.

That’s more or less the state of mind the film’s protagonists find themselves in. The first, Kris (Amy Seimetz), gets tasered and kidnapped by some creep who forces her to swallow what looks like a mescal worm. As seen in the film’s elliptical, nearly wordless opening sequence, this worm infests the roots of a blighted orchid — reminiscent of the source of the drug Death in “A Scanner Darkly.” The worms are processed into a liquid that two teenage test subjects drink, after which they display unnaturally synchronized behavior in a series of exercises.

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