Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Isaac Ezban’s Parallel

How sociopathic must you be to rook yourself over in an alternate dimension? Admittedly, its not you, but if you can’t feel for your alternate self, who can you have empathy for? Unfortunately, a houseful of Seattle app developers does not start asking themselves these questions until it is way too late in Isaac Ezban’s Parallel, which opens in select theaters (obviously not in New York) and on-demand this Friday.

Noel and his would-be band of start-up developers live together and fail to develop their new parking app together in a messy Seattle house. Mysteriously, the previous occupant disappeared (but we see where she got to in the weird, horror-feeling prologue). After drunkenly commiserating over their latest defeat, they happen across the hidden attic, where they find a mirror that allows access to alternate dimensions and a periscope that allows them to scout out whether the coast is clear.

They soon learn DC Comics exaggerated the multi-verse. Invariably, they only find minor variations between realities. The broad strokes are the same, but the differences in the details represent opportunities, like successful art they can copy. Time runs 180 times faster during their jaunts, so they trip into the multiverse to beat tight deadlines in their own plane of existence. They can also use their doubles’ credit cards to pay for shopping sprees. Eventually, Noel also realizes there could be significant technology they (meaning he) could plunder.

As he did in
The Incident, Ezban shows a knack for mind-bending science fiction that takes established gimmicky motifs and gives them a subversive twist. They way the characters exploit the multiverse is pretty reprehensible by any moral standard, but it always makes sense from a Hobbesian perspective.

Things get really crazy, in an unusually interesting way, but screenwriter Scott Blaszak’s characterization could have been a bit fuller. Largely, the multi-universe-tripping friends fit into neat boxes: the sleazy user, the failed artist, the tormented sensitive one, and the horny one. That happens not infrequently in genre films. However, the twists and turns are more than sufficiently intriguing to keep us hooked.

Without question, Mark O’Brien gets the most dramatically interesting work, as the hook-up-challenged Josh, for reasons that would be spoilery to reveal. Martin Wallstrom (who looks a lot like O’Brien) chews plenty of scenery as Noel, behaving way more suspiciously than anyone seems to recognize. Even though it is just the prologue, it is great to see Kathleen Quinlan, who really sets the head-spinning vibe, as Marissa, the previous occupant.

There are a few problems with the ending, but that’s how it goes in genre cinema. The important thing is Ezban and Blaszaak successful offer fans a new take on the multiverse Macguffin. It does what good science fiction is supposed to do—examine human nature under strange, new circumstances. Highly recommended,
Parallel opens this Friday (12/11) on-demand and in some brave theaters.