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Coherence 2013 ****

There’s a brainy, low-budget strain of sci-fi that’s hard to find, but a pleasure to watch; Primer, Upstream Color, Enemy, Timecrimes, all of Brit Marling’s output. Lo-fi visuals, sharp writing and big ideas are the common factor, and James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence surfaces on Amazon Prime in a well-timed bid to widen the audience beyond the festival crowds.

Coherence is a doppleganger story; a group of people having a dinner party are interrupted by a comet going overhead; one of the group has heard of a similar incident in Siberia decades ago, which seemed to cause dislocation and disorientation for those in the wake of the celestial apparition. Another part-goer has brought a liquid solution to the party, one that contains ketamine; with confusing reigning, could she have spiked their food and caused mass hallucinations? Either way, the group become aware of another nearby house, and that the inhabitants look and act like them. Or are their reconnaissance parties getting lost and returning to base, thinking they’re looking at a different house?

Coherence keeps the questions coming, Twilight Zone style, and the solutions are complicated and engrossing; the business with the numbered photographs of the guests is a mind-bending conundrum. Byrkit makes this kind of thing look easy, although hasn’t repeated the trick again; Coherence manages to play a tricky hand well, and only goes for visceral punch in the final scenes.

Hustlers director Lorene Scarfaria has a notable acting role here, and the whole cast manage to portray articulate characters who find themselves in an extraordinary situation. Never stepping into camp or parody, Coherence is a straight-faced sci-fi head-trip that hides secrets that are well worth discovering.

 

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  1. I remember this movie, I thought it was older! It was a very enjoyable mind-bender. Had an LSD inspired quality to it, and the whole thing was done so cheaply, just very good creeped out acting!

  2. Absolutely, there is a strong sense of an altered state about this; little in front of the camera in terms of effects, but the mood is other-worldly and the whole thing has a unique feel to it. Thanks for the comment!

  3. It’s really something! Lots of people told me I’d like it, but I was still late to the party. One of the best ‘big idea’ sci-fi dramas.

  4. Have you seen the French flick TIMECRIMES……it’s well worth a look! But your enjoyment if you haven’t seen it, may be spoilt as a more mainstream American popular horror flick virtually ripped off the whole plot.

  5. Yes, Timecrimes! I mentioned it in the first para; I’m sure there was an American remake mooted with Steve Zallian. Came to nothing, but yes, that’s a cracking low-budget time travel head-zonker!

  6. Sorry, just looked back and realised. Old age! Ha, yeah I find it hard to believe that Christopher Smith states he never saw Timecrimes before he made Triangle, they are just too similar in style. Great review though. There is a forgotten 90’s straight to VIDEO cult flick called Retroactive starring Jim Belushi that’s worth a look…a time twisty tale….I’ll be reviewing it soon! I don’t know how well its aged, but back in 1997 it was a real good hidden beauty.

  7. Retroacrive, eh? I’ll give it a try because you clearly know yournstuff! I’m quite fond of Smith’s Triangle too, it has a similar but unique angle; love the way things pile up due to repeated actions! I guess a generation growing up on Back to the Future can only aspire to creating grown-up versions of that mind-bending approach!

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