A reader wrote to recommend this, since he knows I like dream sequences and drug trips [in MOVIES, that is!] and it has a sizable role for Seth Green, whom the world needs more of.
So we open in this mental hospital where a young man is being strapped down, head shaved, and prepared for brain surgery. Then we go into his mind, as he's dreaming about being under a tree, his fiancee, Faith, who has Ronald McDonald RED hair, comes up and tells him she loves him and wants to be with him forever. Then he's in this satanic ritual and Faith is trying to kill him, but he gets away, then he's in an apartment where it seems that he has killed HER.
Then we're in the lobby of the mental hospital, where Dr. Coffee is coming to see Dr. Ek, played by Jeffery Combs of Re-Animator. Coffee is at first taken to be an escaped lunatic, and the orderlies cart him away, despite his protests. Then Trevor, that's our hero, wakes up and Dr. Ek takes him to an office to explain his predicament. Amusingly, Ek casually asks if he can smoke, then rolls and lights a doob. Ek explains that Trevor has been in a coma for four years, came to them a dangerous, violent psychotic, and only through Ek's experimental therapies has he been brought to some state of normality. Now he will be going to the House of Love, which is a sort of halfway house for lunatics. While he's there, the two doctors monitor his every move via video feed.
There he meets Abby, who runs the house, and is menacingly sweet and ingratiating, as well as Amy, who is blonde with red lipstick and obsessed with people being attracted to her, and Seth Green as Doug, who just yammers on about everything. That night Doug has a dream that he goes up to the attic, where there is a crate, something in it knocking to be set free. Trevor opens the crate, is pulled in, and wakes back in his bed.
The next morning, Doug casually pulls Trevor in for a kiss, but Trevor resists. Doug keeps returning to the subject of how Trevor should stay away from Amy, which makes you begin to feel like he is in love with Trevor himself. By now, in several contexts, the subject of this satanic book keeps coming up. We also learn that Dr. Ek is giving Trevor very powerful hallucinogens, so powerful that they constitute a breach of ethics.
SPOILERS > > >
So a bunch more weird shit happens. Someone in the house is brutally murdered, and it seems like Trevor did it. Green gets a nice uninterrupted monologue of over a minute as the camera tracks him walking around the room. More trips to the attic. More weird shit. Another murder. More of Coffee protesting the strong drugs Ek is giving Trevor. I'm starting not to care.
Eventually we start to figure stuff out. Most apparent is that Ek wants the satanic book, and that may be what all this is about. Eventually we discover that Trevor has actually NOT been asleep four years, and everyone in the house are actors, all of it staged for Trevor's benefit. Furthermore the House of Love is the house that Trevor bought with his girlfriend Faith [the red-headed one], and then it would seem that Doug IS Faith, and he keeps telling Trevor that he loves him. Finally we learn that Trevor is on an operating table with his head cut open, brain exposed, and everything we've seen has been all his hallucinations. Great, so why did I have to pay attention to any of it?
< < < SPOILERS END
The is a challenge with all movies that attempt to sustain a mystery, and that is that they must keep the mystery interesting, and balance giving out enough information to keep us interested, but avoid giving so much it becomes too much effort to process and we just give up.
This is what happened to me. At a certain point I just shut off and stopped caring. I think I missed the point of the whole thing in the end, but by this point I don’t care what the point is. I just wanted it to end so I could send it back. And let's face it, even if I DID expend the effort to figure it all out, the result is not exactly going to be on par with Ulysses.
Another challenge movies like this face is that if all or most of it is happening in the protagonist’s mind, meaning that none of what we’re watching is actually happening, the action of the movie becomes fairly inconsequential and you, viewer, are pretty much a chump for paying attention to it. It’s an ambitious challenge for filmmakers to set themselves, but ultimately very difficult to make work. This is the exact thing that fatally torpedoed the thriller Identity.
Nevertheless, is it worth sitting through? I can’t say that it is. At first one is intrigued by the various levels of reality and mystery of what is going on, and again, I do enjoy seeing Seth Green be able to do some acting in something that isn’t an idiotic comedy, but after a while one begins to feel that the revelations that may or may not be coming are probably not worth the amount of attention you’d have to pay to this thing. So ultimately I’d say save yourself the bother and don’t even get involved.
POSTSCRIPT OCTOBER 2013
So I am once again in contact with the person who initially recommended this and he referenced my "pretty soundly negative review" for this... which was a surprise, as I actually have fond memories of this movie. You know I'm a cranky, negative bastard, right? Okay, perhaps it taxed my patience, but in the fullness of time what I mostly recall is its pleasant sense of wackiness, crazy hallucinations, and Seth Green actually getting to act. You certainly could do worse.
It's fun in its own way.