Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On Netflix: CLINICAL (2017)

(US - 2017)

Directed by Alistair Legrand. Written by Luke Harvis and Alistair Legrand. Cast: Vinessa Shaw, Kevin Rahm, William Atherton, India Eisley, Aaron Stanford, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Nestor Serrano, Wilmer Calderon. (Unrated, 104 mins)

A committed performance by Vinessa Shaw (EYES WIDE SHUT) isn't enough to salvage this sub-Shyamalianian bed-shitter that digs itself into a hole so deep that it can't possibly claw its way out. It starts out decently enough, with Shaw as Dr. Jane Mathis, a psychiatrist still traumatized two years after being attacked with a glass shard by a teenage patient named Nora (India Eisley, daughter of Olivia Hussey and David Glen Eisley, frontman for '80s hair metal B-listers Giuffria), who then used the shard to slit her own throat. Jane is still in therapy with her own shrink Dr. Terry Drummond (DIE HARD's William Atherton), dating nice cop Miles (Aaron Stanford, Shaw's co-star in the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and cautiously restarting her practice on a part-time basis at her home (is that ever a good idea?). One of her new patients is Alex (Kevin Rahm of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and MAD MEN), who's suffering from severe PTSD and anxiety after a car accident that took the life of his daughter and required multiple reconstructive surgeries that have left his face horribly scarred. Strange things begin happening: a sleepwalking Alex appears rummaging through Jane's garage one night, she keeps hearing noises outside the back door, she suffers from sleep paralysis and nightmares, and is having visions of a maniacal, blood-splattered Nora chasing her through the house. Is Nora really there or is it a manifestation of Jane's guilt over believing she mishandled her treatment, something she fears she's doing again with Alex?

Directed and co-written by Alistair Legrand (THE DIABOLICAL), CLINICAL is an acceptable slow-burner for about an hour and change until Legrand and co-writer Luke Harvis drop the Shyamalan twist and everything promptly falls apart. From then on, nothing makes any logical sense no matter how many times the characters explain it (and the culprit is one of these types who just talk and talk and talk). It's weird in that the twist is overexplained yet still doesn't make any sense, almost as if Legrand and Harvis are not so much spelling it out for the viewer as much as they're trying to convince themselves "Yeah, you see how with this and that, and...yeah, I mean, see...this works...right?" Legrand is pretty generous with the splatter and also throws in a few nice split diopter shots (the one with the snow globe is the foreground is well done) to let us know that he's seen some Brian De Palma movies. But by the end, you'll have pretty much given up on trying to figure out what the hell's going on with all the rapid fire revelations and just feel bad for Shaw, a journeyman who's never been out of work over her 25-year career and has been plugging away at it since her teen years (HOCUS POCUS, 3:10 TO YUMA, TWO LOVERS, COLD IN JULY, tons of TV guest spots). She really brings her A-game to this, as if she was certain this was the breakout that would finally take her to the next level. Shaw carries this entire project on her shoulders and it eventually crushes her, and despite some obvious competence behind the camera by Legrand, the weak script (much is made of the Christmas setting, but it doesn't really do anything with it) just seems like its last few pages were blank and everyone just crossed their fingers and hoped it would work itself out.

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