'Ultrasonic': Thriller sounds a conspiracy-theory alarm
A movie review of "Ultrasonic," a micro-budget wannabe thriller about a musician who hears a mysterious, high-pitched sound that might be related to a government experiment in mind control.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Ultrasonic,' with Silas Gordon Brigham, Cate Buscher, Sam Repshas. Directed by Rohit Colin Rao, from a screenplay by Rao and Mark Maguire. 90 minutes. Rated R for language and one brief sex scene. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
/ "Ultrasonic" plays like an above-average film-school graduation project. That's a compliment, since writer-director-producer-cinematographer-editor-score-composer Rohit Colin Rao never attended film school. Given his jack-of-all-trades talent, Rao (a Maryland-born software engineer now living in Seattle) is doing just fine without a diploma.
Then again, the student-film feel of Rao's debut feature also makes it not quite ready for prime-time, which might explain why it's not in this year's Seattle International Film Festival lineup. Produced for less than $20,000, shot in Washington, D.C., with a Canon T2i high-def digital SLR and edited on an Apple laptop, it's another example of micro-budget ingenuity that faces fierce competition as more and more filmmakers jump onto the DIY bandwagon.
The tissue-thin plot focuses on Simon (Silas Gordon Brigham), a music teacher, aspiring rocker and father-to-be who begins to hear a mysterious, high-pitched sound wherever he goes. His wife, Ruth (Cate Buscher), assumes it's tinnitus, but her crackpot brother Jonas (Sam Repshas), who spends most of his time spouting far-fetched conspiracy theories, convinces himself that Simon's being subjected to a governmental plot to control minds using "psychotropic acoustics."
A hearing test reveals that Simon's high-frequency hearing range far exceeds the norm for human ears. So could Jonas be right?
"Ultrasonic" recalls better indie films like "Pi" and "Primer," but there's just not enough story to stretch over 90 minutes, resulting in several scenes that feel like filler, propelled by Rao's good but occasionally too-intrusive electronica score. Rao also has a keen eye for composition, but little flourishes (like colorizing Simon's earplugs pink in an otherwise black-and-white film, or shifting to color for the film's final image) serve no apparent purpose, reducing the film's already minimal impact.