Paranoia 1.0

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 03/16/05 09:42:02

"Upgrading to Weed 2.0 usually takes care of the problem"
3 stars (Average)

I really wanted to like PARANOIA 1.0 more than I did, because it has a fairly intriguing premise and some great atmosphere, centering on a bleakly-lit and creepy apartment building whose inhabitants are caught up in a series of grisly murders and a large-scale conspiracy. PARANOIA 1.0 has atmosphere in spades. Unfortunately, the plot and character development are about as thin as the atmosphere on Pluto.

Simon (Jeremy Sisto) is a programmer who works out of his apartment and generally shuns the outside world. He has occasional random interactions with his oddball neighbors, and only leaves long enough to go to the store and buy milk - lots and lots of milk. Some pissed-off guy, presumably his employer, frequently calls him up on a webcam phone demanding that he "send his code", but Simon never seems to get around to sending it, for whatever reasons.

His neighbors include a sleazy purveyor of virutal reality porn (although why such high-tech pornography would have to be viewed through something that looks like one of those ancient and cumbersome eye examination machines is beyond me), a robotics engineer who is working on a creepy talking-head robot thing, a perverted landlord who likes to spy on his tenants, a strange handyman (Lance Henriksen) who lives in the basement, and Trish (Deborah Unger), a sexy night-shift nurse who likes to participate in the porn guy's work on occasion because it alleviates her chronic depression (or something like that).

And really, that's all we ever find out about these two characters. There's no backstory, no intriguing revelations - it's just Simon and Trish being freaked out by odd happenings in the building (Like Simon discovering empty packages that are mysteriously left in his apartment), while everyone else around them seems to end up dead with their brainpan scooped out like a Jack-O-Lantern. Although it's supposed to create an atmosphere of suspense, the pacing gets bogged down and the story is so muddled that it ends up running the gamut from mildly intriguing, to confusing, to just plain dull. And while the overall theme of using corporate mind-control to spark rampant consumerism is an interesting one, and is occasionally rendered more so by a deft touch here or there (while Simon's fridge is filled with identical cartons of milk, he discovers that one neighbor has a fridge full of the same cola, another the same kind of meat products, etc), it just never really goes anywhere interesting.

It's really a shame too, because the use of dim lighting and a grungy palette of colors in the building really makes for a great backdrop for something, anything, truly suspenseful to happen against. Unfortunately, it just never does, and there is so little emotional investment in the enigmatic characters to begin with that it's hard to give a damn either way. The film also suffers from a few huge logic holes (I don't want to give anything away, but once it is revealed what the "empty" boxes are used for, it begs the question "Why didn't they just put X into Y to begin with?)

People big on grim and grungy visuals and minimalist storytelling might glean more enjoyment out of PARANOIA 1.0 than others. As for me - well, when a film throws me this few bones, they'd better have a lot more meat on them.

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