Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Dena Hysell and Isak Borg, the new sci-fi horror flick Algorithm: Bliss is yet another entry into the genre that preaches about the dangers of letting technology proceed in an uncontrolled manner. Yet unlike other cautionary tales, this film doesn’t work because it fails to establish the stakes to a satisfying level.
The movie follows an app developer who creates an app that has the ability to deliver its users a feeling of spontaneous bliss, but as the demand continues to increase, he finds himself increasingly drawn to unethical and illegal methods to keep himself and his creation afloat. It’s an intriguing premise, even if it isn’t the most original, but unfortunately, the script even fails to cash into existing tropes.
Starting out like a more frightening version of Total Recall, the film has a lot of potential but it soon becomes clear that the story is very one-note. There is no depth or nuance to the discussion of technology here — no real exploration of how technological developments are a necessary and helpful part of societal growth. Rather, this movie offers a portrait of corruption by power, and an unimpressive one at that.
Perhaps the single biggest issue with the film is that the pacing is absolutely horrible. It takes a solid hour before the movie gets to any significant conflict, and for a horror movie, that is troublesome. That last forty minutes is at least pretty entertaining, but it’s very over-the-top and one has to sit through a lot of boredom to get to it.
The character development in the film also doesn’t help. The movie tries to humanize the protagonist through his relationships with his girlfriend and his best friend (who also helped create the app), but these are largely abandoned in the second half. As a result, in the final third, this essential sympathy is missing.
Lead actor Sean Faris is actually not bad. Although it can be hard to believe him in the role at times (he’s better at portraying the businessman part of the character than the scientist part), he is pretty charming. That said, when the character allows him to ham it up, he goes all in on the madness and is very fun to watch.
Some slack can be cut to the execution because it obviously has a very low budget, but Hysell and Borg don’t do anything particularly innovative with the film either. Low-budget sci-fi is one of the most conducive genres for experimentation and yet everything on the screen is so straightforward. It feels safe, and safe simply isn’t interesting.
Despite showing a lot of promise in its first scenes, Algorithm: Bliss isn’t able to pick up the narrative momentum it needs to succeed. It’s not even so bad it’s amusing to watch — it’s just dull.
Algorithm: Bliss hits VOD on June 2.