Review by Sean Boelman
Co-written and directed by Matthew Ninaber, Transference is the latest in a line of films to take a superhero-like premise and apply the tropes of the low-budget horror-thriller genre to it. However, unlike the more satisfying attempts to pull it off, Ninaber doesn’t seem to have as much understanding of what he wants to say, much less control over how he says it.
The movie tells the story of a young man who protects his sister that possesses supernatural powers from outside forces by isolating her from the world. Although there is plenty of potential in this premise, Ninaber and his co-writers Jennifer Lloyd and Aaron Tomlin throw in far too many subplots for the film to be any less than a total mess.
For a majority of the movie’s runtime, the film is building to a huge reveal at the end of the movie, but it is truly a marathon to reach the finish line. The first hour or so of the film is intriguing, building a moderate amount of suspense despite its often repetitive nature, but this careful plotting is thrown out the window in a third act that feels overly convenient and even outright lazy.
One of the most frustrating things about this movie is its lack of world-building. Many superhero films are either reliant on or limited by the viewer’s pre-existing knowledge of the world in which it is set. The writers of this movie had anything within the realm of science fiction to work with, and yet they choose not to put much depth into the world. By immersing viewers into the world of the film, it easily could have been much more entertaining.
Instead, the script misguidedly attempts to bank on its emotional elements. With a forced flashback serving as the emotional crux of the movie, there isn’t much in this film that will make viewers care about the characters. By treating the motivation of the characters more like a mystery than an essential foundation, Ninaber et al. alienate the audience from the movie’s story.
On a technical level, Ninaber’s film shows its budget, and while it’s obvious that he is attempting to do some ambitious things with his small amount of funding, they don’t always work out. For example, quick editing is frequently used as a substitute for visual effects (practical or CGI), and the result is disorienting and off-putting.
That said, the acting in the movie is relatively solid. Jeremy Ninaber does a good enough job of commanding the screen, even if the role doesn’t give him much to do in terms of emotional range until the final act. Melissa Joy Boerger is also very committed, though her performance sometimes ends up feeling over-the-top and maudlin.
Transference has a lot of potential on paper, but sadly, it never delivers on said promise. Instead, what viewers get is a mostly bland, poorly-paced exercise in genre-crossing that tries a bit too hard for its own good.
Transference hits VOD on March 10.