Japan. 1824 A.D: Hypnotic regression goes a bit far when, hoping to cure her bout of depression, Basia’s psychiatrist accidentally sends her back a bit too far, unlocking memories from reincarnations past, in locales as diverse as Olde England, India and the aforementioned Japan of 1824. Oops.
As past lives begin to merge with the present, Basia is sent spiralling into a fevered living nightmare from which she cannot wake, experiencing horrific visions, dirty strangers from the past appearing in her living room, and waking up with her head and arm stuck in the wall. What’s a ‘Scopia Effect’? Phenomenon that cannot be explained by science, the film helpfully tells us. Yeah, that sums up The Scopia Effect pretty well.
A dreamlike, tricksy, supernatural thriller featuring fully realised digressions into the (long) past (oh hi, 18th Century France), The Scopia Effect is one of the most ambitious low-budget Indies you’ll ever find. That’s an even more impressive statement when one realises that it’s only writer/director Christopher Butler’s first film. There’s a level of ambition, intelligence and sheer technical competence at play here that some budget horror directors never achieve during their whole career. Butler’s background in advertising surely helps, a strong eye for imagery and storytelling that sits at ease with his short cuts and the movie’s own scattershot style.
The whole thing lives or dies on its Basia, and thankfully Joanna Ignaczewska is more than up to the part, anchoring the film with her heartbreaking portrayal of the terrified, confused young woman under attack from time itself – contending not only with the demons from her own past, but those of lives lived millennia ago. She is slightly annoying when she cries, but we’ll let her off, given the horrors experienced here. And there we were thinking that acting like a chicken for a few days, or the plot of CBB’s Big Kids was the worst possible outcome of hypnosis.
Put down the phone and pay attention: The Scopia Effect is a smart, unpredictable and original little thriller. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat literally wondering where it is headed. Africa of 1954, you say?
THE SCOPIA EFFECT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER BUTLER / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER BUTLER / STARRING: JOANNA IGNACZEWSKA, AKIRA KOIEYAMA, LOUIS LABOVITCH / RELEASE DATE: 15TH FEBRUARY