‘Ultrasound’ (2022) Review: A Trippy Dreamscape with Multiple Plotlines

Rob Schroeder’s Ultrasound is a mysterious and discomforting movie that messes with people’s memories. The movie channels David Lynch and Christopher Nolan in the world of a dreamscape where people cannot escape from. Through methods of hypnosis, the characters are placed in an environment by professionals for an experiment. Ultrasound is a movie that requires the audience to pay close attention to the plot because a lot happens and there are clues everywhere.

The movie follows Glen (Vincent Kartheiser), whose car hits a piece of wood with nails on it in the middle of the rain. He stumbles into the home of Art (Bob Stephenson) and his younger wife, Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez). Art welcomes Glen into his home and offers for him to stay the night. After having a few drinks, Art suggests Glen sleep with Cyndi, which is a fairly odd request he tries to politely decline. However, he ends up going to the couple’s bedroom and they sleep together. The next morning, Glen wakes up to find an empty house and leaves to return to his house. Out of nowhere, Art appears on his doorstep and tells him that Cyndi is having his baby, and more strange occurrences begin to happen. Meanwhile, in a research psychological facility, Shannon (Breeda Wool) analyses the therapeutic potential of hypnosis with a few of her colleagues. She uses a script and goes through the dialogues with the subjects. As the tests begin to feel more dangerous, Shannon helps the subjects to escape from the facility, but what comes next is a chain of events that never ends for anyone.

Ultrasound is a puzzle. There are so many clues or objects that are clattered around the dreamscape which gives the idea that something is wrong from the very beginning. It’s absurd and for a film that claims to be a science fiction film, it is very mediocre. Perhaps what is confusing and disorienting is the experience of watching the film. It’s a movie that gaslights the characters and the viewers. With three plotlines, two of which intersect with each other while the other seems to be a story of its own and out of place, there is a lot for the audience to digest. Perspectives and aspects change out of nowhere and sometimes the plotlines end nowhere. There is one particular plotline where a woman is pregnant by a politician. The politician hires a hypnotist to make her forget about her pregnancy. This plot doesn’t have any relevance to the rest of the characters and the movie itself, so it is frustrating and confusing.

While Ultrasound focuses on the theme of gaslighting, it also discusses the political and ethical concerns of the experiment. Shannon was unaware of how much the subjects, Glen and Cyndi, were being manipulated over and over again. The experiments are done without the subjects’ consent. She suspects the institution is taking advantage of the subjects and she realises that her colleagues and the institution aren’t as harmless as they had advertised before.

However, a problem with Ultrasound is all of the unanswered questions. The movie has too many twists and turns and the audience might get a bit impatient while watching it. It takes a while for the movie to make a big reveal that changes the trajectory of the characters. Even then, the end result is disappointing.

Additionally, Conor Stechschulte’s script lacks the kind of narrative that makes the movie exciting and interesting. The characters need more work to support the theme and narrative structure and the dialogue is rigid and underdeveloped. Ultrasound’s best aspects are the direction and the visual elements, which spotlights the lack of dialogue in the movie. It’s upsetting that an interesting central theme doesn’t have the appropriate material to make it stronger, but let’s hope Schroeder and Stechschulte’s next project is more interesting and less confusing than this one.

Ultimately, Ultrasound is a movie that manipulates the characters as well as the audience. There are so many questions to be answered: how did Glen, Cyndi and the other subjects end up in the institution? Were they there voluntarily? How much control do they have over their lives and the events that happened after? But these questions leave much to be desired. Schroeder’s direction works well in the movie, as it shows the characters losing control of their reality in a state of confusion. Their reality is abstract and the viewer is immersed in their perspective.

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