The biggest sell for Jorge Ameer’s ‘Altered Perceptions’ is that it’s written by an actual neurologist. Dr. Wayne Dees, who serves as the writer for this sci-fi horror and political satire mashup, is, however, unable to give the film any sort of edge over other films that fall in the same league. Using the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way political parties took a seethingly peculiar stand against it, this ‘work of fiction’ is so bleak about its stand and so oddly in misalignment with its thematical elements that it never manages to explore anything. So much so that I wished it could come to an end sooner, but it feels like forever before you actually get there.
Set in a reality that isn’t far away from our own, Ameer’s film takes Texas as its central ground. Since we are all aware of the Texan republican inclination, it is quite obvious that the film will take a jab at the region’s lack of solidarity and awareness of anything that feels remotely close to reality and humanity per se. The film opens with Alex (Oran Stainbrook), a young man who works in the re-election campaign for Senator Ted Demarcus (Danny Fehsenfeld). Alex’s father is renowned neurologist Dr. Joseph Feretti (Matt Fling), who has been trying to find more details about a new pandemic post-COVID-19 – one that has brought the world to a sort of standstill. People have been exhibiting dementia-like symptoms with repercussions leading to murder, mayhem, suicide, and other dark after-effects.
Now, ‘Altered Perceptions’ would feel remotely interesting if had any idea about how to showcase Alex’s lack of self-awareness for standing with the villains of humanity. However, since his idea of the world is shown through a prophetic figure who would remind you of Terminator and make you cringe every time he appears on screen or utters a single word, his arc never feels close to complete. So, in spite of spending almost 2 hours with these people, there’s no takeaway whatsoever. The film is so full of its own gory details that it never truly makes an effort to flesh out its many sub-themes.
In a sequence, a man uses a prostitute’s severed head to please himself before he shoots himself in the face. In another, a religious fatalist stops a man on the street and stabs him to death before slashing himself, too. If that’s not enough, Ameer presents a future where political bigotry has reached such an extreme that homosexuals and black people need to go to correction centers because a senator claims that they are the reason behind the world coming toward its end. Now, all these things are plausible, especially considering how often stupid people are made to sit on a pedestal and run our countries and the system that should keep things in check. However, Ameer’s idea runs so thin and shallow that the bleakness sets in way before the plot can actually kick in, making everything feel obsolete from the word go.
The execution is clunky, and everything that proceeds to the climax echoes utter randomness. To give the film some kind of star power, there’s Eric Roberts, who features in the narrative as a guy admitted to the hospital having caught the new mutated version of the virus that causes dementia. There are some odd, completely out-of-place choices of characters and actors that completely take you out of this narrative, which grows painfully redundant as it proceeds. To top that all, the film, which has a peculiar amount of male frontal nudity, is never able to provide some kind of chemistry between its point of view homosexual couple. Their moments together are filled with unease and misshapen, making the entire thing feel staged just to make a point.
Overall, ‘Altered Perceptions’ is a chore to sit through. It neither works as a sci-fi horror film nor as a political satire aiming right at the bigotry of the people in power.