Psychiatrist John Hatchett (Daly) wakes up in an abandoned warehouse, tied to a chair next to a table arrayed with a variety of knives and other tools. After failing to escape, Hatchett is joined by David Crowe (the other O’Toole) and the torment begins.
Made for less than £10,000, you might be forgiven for expecting Fractional to stick to its single location and its two actors, presuming the psychological aspect to be an unravelling of plot told in dialogue; basically, a stage play committed to HD VT. But as Crowe teases out the details of Hatchett’s background – including the lies that have brought him to his ex-patient’s attention – we begin seeing the story unfold through flashbacks involving Sarah (Bradley), the woman at the heart of Hatchett’s current circumstances both in life and in the warehouse.
Given that it’s on videotape rather than a lovely grainy film stock, Deegan does well to create an atmosphere in his primary location. The contrast between foreground and backdrop isn’t as defined as he might have liked, but generally Fractional looks a lot better than you’d expect – and Deegan has shot plenty of coverage so the back and forth between the two characters never gets visually boring. And the exterior shooting is gorgeous, offsetting the interior drama and increasing in frequency and length as the story progresses. It’s a clever script, self-aware enough to realise how quickly it might have become tedious rather than transfixing and taking appropriate measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.
The acting from the three principals is tremendous, Daly, in particular, impressing as the frustrated and rather surly psychiatrist. O’Toole and Bradley are less experienced, but Bradley provides a suitably emotional reality, while O’Toole (after ironing some early tics out of his performance) underplays the psychotic ex-patient with a subdued menace and not a little-concealed delight.
Fractional isn’t the most accomplished film you will ever see, the intermittent brutality actually distracting rather than helping to facilitate terror – and unfortunately the twist at the end is neither as logical nor as surprising as it needed to be. But it’s a more than reasonable effort especially given the meagre resources, making far more of itself than any number of similarly budgeted features. Worth a look.
Extras: trailer, commentary
FRACTIONAL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MALCOLM DEEGAN / SCREENPLAY: MALCOLM DEEGAN / STARRING: DESMOND DALY, PETER O’TOOLE, DONNA BRADLEY / RELEASE DATE: TBC