Distorted is a paranoia thriller that isn’t thrilling, so I guess that ruins that right off the bat, doesn’t it? It’s a movie about a couple of people who move into a high-tech apartment. And the apartment might be under constant surveillance. And the apartment might also have subliminal messages being beamed into it—which only one of them can notice, since she has a mental illness. That’s the premise of this movie. You can ignore it now, if you’d like.
The couple: Lauren (Christina Ricci) and Russell (Brendan Fletcher). They went through a traumatic event in the past—which will be revealed later in the movie but won’t surprise you anyway—and while he seems to be dealing with it decently, she isn’t. Whether her mental illness was triggered by it or existed before isn’t made clear, but she takes pills and sees a therapist. And because of her condition and medication, she can “sense” these messages that are being broadcast into the apartment. Or maybe they’re manifestations of her illness and nothing’s going on. Tune in to find out.
That’s how the film tries to generate suspense. We have to guess whether something’s going on or it’s all in Lauren’s head, all while she tries to get to the bottom of the thing that may or may not be happening. It leaves little room for anything else. Apart from the illness and past trauma, we learn nothing about Lauren as a person since she and the movie are singularly fixated on this one thing. Her husband is nice but bland, and none of the supporting characters get anything to do.
The central mystery—if you can call it that—also isn’t particularly interesting. We focus on it almost exclusively but it’s boring. We don’t care about the people to whom it’s happening, if it’s happening at all, and we don’t care about it. We’re not given reason to. The movie doesn’t have time to establish its characters as people or slowly build the suspense. It jumps right in and doesn’t stop until the end.
Speaking of the finale, the movie gets sillier as it progresses to the point that the few of you who watch it and take it seriously will likely give up close to its conclusion. It’s downright laughable at times, including during the few scenes in which John Cusack shows up. It’s literally three or four scenes, and almost all of his role is expository. If you were planning to watch because of Cusack, you can rest assured you don’t need to. But you don’t have much reason to watch it outside of Cusack, either. There isn’t much to it; it’s less than 90 minutes of a woman running around wondering if she’s paranoid or if people are out to get her. That’s it.
Distorted is a paranoia thriller without thrills and with a boring paranoia plot that is its sole focus. Without much of a story and without any characters worth caring about, it amounts to watching a woman we don’t know well or care about running around from place to place doing nothing of consequence for 80ish minutes. It’s a dull movie that has no idea how to build or sustain suspense. Christina Ricci tries to bring something to the project but is unable to give her character anything more than the most basic of traits. There’s almost no reason to watch Distorted.
Conclusion: Distorted has lots of paranoia but lacks the thrills to be entertaining.