Director: Tom Sands
Writer: Mick Sands
Stars: Nicky Henson, Emma Davies, Euan Macnaughton
What happens when a young, ambitious filmmaker is given a modest budget to produce a film that is a rehash of Inception, Jason Bourne, and Minority Report? You get The Holly Kane Experiment, a derivative of not only these aforementioned films, but the figurative thought experiment of a government coping with terrorism in a post-9/11, ISIS-laden world. Holly Kane (Kirsty Averton) is a researcher who may have found a way to reduce pain, anxiety, even personality by manipulating the subconscious to rewire the awakened conscious. This piques the interest of government stooge Marvin Greenslade (Nicky Henson), a much older, patriarchal figure who will manipulate the naive Holly in a game of espionage and sexual intrigue, the latter of which is gross and exploitative.
Billed as a sexy, psychological thriller, Experiment is neither. It is a slow, confusing film that sadly suffers from its indie-budget boundaries. Sorry, but an idea of this caliber needs money, or else the execution will be stale. It's as if the the Wachowski siblings were to make their Matrix trilogy with stick figures. Case in point: Kane's experiments take place in an egg-shaped water chamber (oddly similar to those in Minority Report), but they do little to add intrigue to the supposed psychological transformation of our title character. Instead, we get the image of Holly floating in what looks like in ocean, for minutes. Why? Because clearly a limited budget required our conscious imagination to piece it all together. And I had no desire to do so.
The sexy part was also quite problematic. Kane apparently has underlying mental health issues...or so we believe. It's hard to say, because Greensdale is using Kane's own experiments against her, and it is working out for the old man who is able to have sex with the flat-faced Holly, who feels anything but titillated. She is essentially being raped, which I can only infer is the feeling of shock (or sexiness?) the filmmakers wanted us to gather emotionally. Well, if one were to really unpack any morality from Nolan's overrated Inception (yep, I said it), you wouldn't find a thing. After all, Inception is really about hired mercenaries manipulating a CEO with daddy issues of an important company who happens to be a competitor to a CEO of another really important company without daddy issues. The point: To make money while Leonardo DiCaprio battles something pertaining to ethics.
What is the psychological trick here? A huge one in The Holly Kane Experiment, for every time I saw Nicky Henson's naked body in a low-budget egg shell, or being lubed up by an old man spitting on his hand, I wanted to Google the otherwise talented Averton to ensure her career is only rising after enduring the purgatory that is the movie experiment. (She's apparently doing fine.)
By the film's climax, Holly is being rescued by another man who is part boyfriend, part former spy (don't ask) - solidifying the film's inherent belief that smart women are useless tools to be raped and rescued. A chase ensues, as stale and rote as Holly's conscious; or in a meta sense, the entire movie's. The final frame is equally as scoff-ish, reaffirming that we are indeed supposed to be watching a fear-the-terrorist movie, but the theme is to fear the government, who will seemingly molest you in a thought experiment, then try to kill you. If only the subconscious were that stimulating.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter:@dinsmorality