The child is grown, the dream is gone, and Judge Brett Cullum has become comfortably numb.
Our review of Numb, published May 23rd, 2008, is also available.
"Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld so I can sigh eternally."
Numb sets out to be an ambitious science fiction tale made without a budget, sort of a Children of Men with no studio support. It shows a post-apocalyptic city where everyone is addicted to a drug called "the drip." Apparently it's a narcotic that makes you…well…numb to the world, hence the title of the movie. People have become as synthetic as the drugs they consume. Dealers are called "angels," and they move through the world aloof and cold with no passion. The whole population has lost its soul. Claire (Jennifer West Savitch, Nightfall) is a sober woman in search of her father, so she wanders the countryside going from one drug den or "treatment center" to the next in hopes of reconnecting with him. He invented this whole "drip" business, and so we're not totally sure why Claire needs to find him. Is she seeking paternal love or a cure for the malaise? About the only person who helps her out is a guy who is immune to "the drip" named Miles (Dominik Overstreet, A Tale of Love). He is supposed to be a caretaker, so he's been genetically altered to not be a user. He's muscular, he smokes, and he talks tough while explaining most of the plot. Miles wants sex instead of drugs, and has a secret agenda not revealed until near the end.
I'm not sure what to make of Numb, because it is unique but at the same time frustrating. It's certainly artfully executed with the present sequences done in black and white and flashbacks in hyper stylized color. The lack of color for the brave new world makes things easier to execute given the low budget for design, and it portrays a drug induced dystopia effectively. The production feels well thought out, and it has style to spare. The story is told in a disjointed fashion with flashbacks conjoining with a fractured present to disorient the viewer. Numb is hard to get into at the start, but things make sense by the resolve. It's an interesting journey, but something is off about the film.
Part of the problem is the movie took 10 years to be made from when it was conceived, and back in the 90s the story would have had more impact. Numb is expounding on a drug culture that seemed more prevalent back in the halcyon days of Nirvana and heroin chic. Its vision of the future seems retro now that most of society has drifted away from drugs that make you numb, and the current abuse fashion is concerned with substances that rev people up like crystal meth. This is a science fiction zombie movie where druggies are languid slow moving vague threats dressed in Gothic clothes that are as dated as the concept of "the drip." This is a cyberpunk noir flick with a dream pop soundtrack. Numb feels a decade old even though it was made three years ago.
The DVD release for Numb gives us a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer with a basic stereo soundtrack. Black levels are fine, colors are appropriately saturated in the flashbacks, and it all looks and sounds competent. Grain seems to be on purpose, and a way to compensate for the low budget style of filming. The director's commentary is insightful and crucial to understanding the project. There are some wisely excised scenes found on the extras that wouldn't have helped the story in most cases. Some of the deleted scenes were done in Esperanto, and that is amusing to see. The packaging is handsome with some great artwork both inside the cover as well as striking poster art for the front.
Numb is a well conceived science fiction thriller that would have been right at home during the '90s. It's funny how stories like this work best as social commentary, as if our visions of the future rely mostly on what we see in the present. If you can remove yourself from what's going on today, Numb has a great payoff. The project is stylish and well done for a zero dollar independent movie. The disc is worth a look for fans of science fiction, and I'm glad to see it finally on the shelf. It deserves to be seen, and it's worth patiently drifting through the first reel to get to the conclusion. Play some grunge music, sit back, and enjoy the future filtered through the past.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Heretic Films
• Director's Commentary
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