Posted by: markfender | September 9, 2014

+1 vs. Coherence

There has recently been two movies about parallel universes interacting…is this a sign of parallel universes interacting?

plus-one-movie-posterAs you can tell from the movie poster, +1 isn’t exactly going for a “think piece.” Netflix billed it as a horror movie, but I’m not sure on that. There’s one shooting, one stabbing, and one knock-down, drag-out fight, no real horror imagery, and some sci-fi ideas. (I guess you could call David’s weird obsession with Jill kind of horrifying.) Instead, you pretty much get a typical teen party movie. A teen party movie that really overstayed its welcome with the partying. Dude throwing said party has to keep upping himself with ridiculous party shenanigans, so the movie just gets more and more outlandish as it goes. I’ll accept teenagers that totally trash a giant house with their partying (been there done that), but I have a harder time accepting “just throw more strippers at it” as a realistic option.

The teen tropes are not done yet, though, because we also have David who just broke up with Jill. Of course, Jill is at the biggest party of the year and David has to go to win her back. Meanwhile, David’s pussy-obsessed friend meets the most atypical young-adult-actress-playing-at-being-a-teenager in the entire spectrum of unrealistic teen femme fatales, who drags him upstairs for claw-at-the-furniture sex (that seriously lasted way too long). There’s lots of nudity throughout the film so, if you still don’t know how the internet works and fast-forwarding through movies is still your go-to, I guess watch this. I will give the movie this: all the girls who spend a majority of their roles naked actually get lines as well, which is more than they usually get. Oh, and of course, there’s a mopy emo girl.

The sci-fi event of the movie is two universes coming into parallel with each other, which causes duplicates of everyone to appear at the party. As the movie progresses, one group of people keeps disappearing and reappearing closer in time to the original group. This lets the story build in suspense, as the first occurrence happens when most of the party is off somewhere else and so only our principal characters get clued in. As the story advances, the groups get closer in time to each other until they’re finally aware of each other. This results in a pretty hilarious fight scene as everyone tries to destroy their duplicate. I think this might have been the horror part of the story, but it honestly just looked kind of dumb and was more funny than anything.

The only really horrible bit to me was the aforementioned David, and it wasn’t just his cheekbones that frightened me. No, he’s the typical teenage love-besotted stalker type who just won’t take no for an answer. When that is cute, they hold a boombox over their head outside a girl’s window and everything’s great, but realistically it’s where restraining orders come from. Jill, the girl in question, actually did a good job of having the whole “Oh God, mopey face is around again” expression, but that does not stop our “hero.” In his elaborate wooing scenario, he managed to find one particular Jill duplicate who bought his sob story, and then spends the rest of the movie eliminating the other versions of Jill. So, you know, that’s healthy. The movie ends with the happy couple making googly-eyes at each other – which is I guess where the real horror lies, because David pretty much went super Saiyan stalker there at the end.

While the internal story and parallel universes makes sense and is well thought out, I found everything else about this movie kind of bad. I’m not a teenager and teenage parties do not have any appeal. Likewise, I had no interest in David as a character at all. His primary character traits were: being mopey and never wanting anything to change. Those are both traits I despise in real people, so the odds of me liking that character were nonexistent.

coherence-movie-poster-2013-large-fantastic-festCoherence is a small-budget sci-fi film that explores the same themes, but approaches them like an adult, which is nice because I am also an adult. And it has Nicholas Brendon in it (What’s he been up to?). It involves a bunch of adult-type people getting together for a dinner party when a freak astrological alignment causes a whole bunch of parallel universes to interact. This leads to body swapping, infiltrators from other houses, and other shenanigans.

This movie suffered a bit from its small budget. It features handheld camera work around a dinner table primarily, which made me a bit nauseous at times. But, then again, if you’re going to film a dinner set with no budget, you sort of have to go handheld. What was also interesting was that the movie was primarily improvised. I’m sure the science bits that made the parallel universe thing work were pretty rigid, but I guess some of the dialogue was improvised. The scene where Nicholas Brendon explains how he was a popular teen actor on a popular teen show was pretty funny (He was on Roswell, of course). If I have a complaint, some of the adult-type “small talk” early in the movie wasn’t the greatest. And a problem with both movies is that, once the parallel universe thing is explained, everyone accepts it completely out of hand. I mean, I’d hate to have the whole movie be people complaining about how none of this is possible, but it did seem a little pat in both films how quickly duplicates are accepted.

Coherence does a lot more with the duplicate thing. There are lots of clues planted early on that make every “alternate group” different in how it plays out, so there’s a lot more interesting puzzles to work though. One particular stand-out bit to me was the scene where Mike decides that they need to go to the “alt house” and kill them, because that is exactly what his other version is probably trying to convince the others to do. Unfortunately, not every parallel universe bit works, such as the scene when they are confronted with a couple of duplicates from another house. One speech later, and they’re accepted as the originals, despite the fact that all the evidence points to them being some of the duplicates.

The movie ends in an interesting place. One complaint I often hear about these sort-of low budget sci-fi movies is that they always end nebulously. That’s certainly true here as well, but I thought it worked. Yes, the parallel thing isn’t entirely resolved, but it opens up some more interesting questions that the audience is left to ponder, which worked a lot better than +1’s “But, which of them is the real us?” ending.

I mean, if you’ve got to watch a parallel universe movie, you should watch Coherence and skip +1. It’s way more cerebral, fairly densely plotted, and has some decent twists throughout. +1 is just an excuse to watch teen tropes and boobs. But, in a parallel universe, you probably watched +1 and thought it was good. You monster.

 

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