The opening credits give the title Marionette, so obviously there’s been a change-of-heart somewhere along the line in Elbert van Strien’s derivative thriller. ‘Who is really pulling the strings?’ asks the tag-line, and when the answer comes, it’s something of a let-down. Spoiler alert, if you’ve seen Serenity, you’ve seen this story, although the horror lineage goes right back to The Sixth Sense and even Carnival of Souls. It’s something of a mystery why a film would be made on this particular subject; audiences didn’t like this concept with an all-star cast and an exotic setting, so when the draws are Aberdeen and brief cameos from Bill Paterson and Peter Mullan, it’s unlikely to shake the world, pandemic or not.
Thelka Reuten plays Marianne Winter, a child-psychologist who is charged with a young man who seems to be able to predict the future, Medusa Touch-style. As often in this kind of film, freaky crayon drawings seem to be the method by which frissons are created. Winter is keen to establish the how and why of the boy’s behaviour, but the deeper she gets, the more muddled things are. Is the boy a fake, or for real, or is Marianne just a figment of his own imaginary world? And what does Marianne’s own troubled past indicate about her investigation?
Repression looks good, with attractive locations and some attempt at atmosphere, but the dynamics of the plot defeat good intentions. Government funding bodies pride themselves in not following trends, but re-treading such a familiar story in such a generic lo-fi way hobble any impact, and unconvincing detail in the US-set sections jumbles the plot-points. Reuten does a decent job with the heroine, but the shrill nature of her quest eventually leads to fatigue rather than intensity.
Repression is the kind of public-funding jolly which doesn’t service an audience; it’s no surprise that of the 80 plus films Creative Scotland have put public cash into, only a handful have returned any profit. Instead of providing help for local film-makers, CS have seemed content to finance external productions in Scotland, thus scuppering any local indie scene and confounding any NGO’s that try to foster grass-roots film-making. Like Marianne, financers seem to have existed in a cosy dream world that, as funding for such fanciful pursuits dries up, may well be on it’s last gasp.
Signature Entertainment presents Repression on Digital HD 28th September
Thanks to Signature Entertainment for advance access to this title.