Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, Breeda Wool, Tunde Adebimpe, Rainey Qualley, Chris Gartin, Bob Stephenson
Written by: Conor Stechschulte
Directed by: Rob Schroeder
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 104
Date: 03/11/2022
IMDB

Ultrasound (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hypnotic Fate

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This tricky, unsettling puzzlebox sci-fi tale feels initially familiar, but doles out its clues at all the right places, in just the right proportions, until we're left brain-bended and gobsmacked.

A man, Glen (Vincent Kartheiser), is driving alone at night, in a rainstorm, when his tire strikes some nails in the road. He makes his way to the nearest house, occupied by teacher Art (Bob Stephenson) and his younger wife Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez). They kindly offer him shelter, but after some wine, Art insists on Glen sleeping in the bedroom with Cyndi, while, he, Art, takes the couch.

The next day, Glen wakes up to find everyone gone, so he leaves. Some time later, Art appears at his door, informing him that Cyndi is pregnant. In the middle of all this, we meet pregnant Katie (Rainey Qualley), who is being kept alone in a fancy apartment. We also meet psychological researcher Shannon (Breeda Wool), who seems to be conducting certain interviews involving hypnotism. How does all this come together?

A feature directing debut by Rob Schroeder, and the first produced screenplay by writer Conor Stechschulte, Ultrasound will at first make viewers feel like they're way ahead of the characters, which is one of its best tricks. But all is not as it seems, as there are little planted clues to let us know that, indeed, things are not as straightforward as they look. Wool (Mass) is a great pivot point for the story; she has a strange nervous quality about her performance that keeps things off-balance.

Early on, we see her character Shannon memorizing dialogue, words we've heard Glen and Cyndi say to each other. Is she copying down what they said, or is she feeding words to them? Or something else? It turns out that even Shannon doesn't quite know everything that's going on, and the mastermind, Dr. Conners (Tunde Adebimpe), has a dark reason for it all that packs a wallop.

Ultrasound is jumpy, and nervy, and it assumes that its audience is smart and demands that attention be paid. It also has no use for any tacked on chase scenes or fights. Everything here is devoted to the puzzle, and it's most satisfying to see the pieces click together.

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