Ultrasound (2022) Gets Lost in the Circles of Its Meandering Story
First Non-Festival Release: March 11, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms, etc)
Director: Rob Schroeder
Writer: Conor Stetchschulte
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Starring: Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, Bob Stephenson
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Driving home from a friend’s wedding, Glen (Vincent Kartheiser) finds himself seeking shelter from a car accident. He wanders to the home of Art (Bob Stephenson) and Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez) who gleefully take him in for the night while he waits for an auto shop to open. The night slips away from him in a series of confusing conversations and leads to Glen sleeping with Chelsea. He awakens the next morning questioning if anything was real from the night before and resolves to forget the encounter. His plan goes awry when Art reaches out to let him know that Cyndi is pregnant, and Glen is the father.
Dull twists and turns blunt the competently produced sci-fi horror in Ultrasound.
Ultrasound is a frustrating film for those who prefer a straightforward story. Edging the viewer slowly into madness, its script constantly plays with the idea that nothing is as it seems. Characters forget who they are or what they are doing and contend with a variety of odd situations. By the time it reaches its third act, however, the tricks get old as the narrative spins into even more ambitious ideas and topics. Politics, informed consent, and non-monogamy, Ultrasound goes very interesting places. It is a shame that it all ends up feeling very inconsequential by the time it ends.
Due to its commitment to its themes, Ultrasound makes commentary on the ways we lie and deceive one another. It’s no mistake that several antagonists of Ultrasound include a politician, a hypnotist, scientists, and faceless organizations. The lack of agency of the central characters is a direct result of these people meddling in their lives and causing chaos. It’s not until they are able to break the spell that holds them that any change happens for them. Additionally, it’s interesting to note that these antagonists feed off of each other. When one harms another, there is no remorse in cutting off the rot from the inside.
What hampers the film the most is its approach to the material. The story itself isn’t too hard to discern, but its creeping pace and constant need to switch the point of view makes for an irritating watch. The dialogue gets rather circular, and moments don’t make sense until the end. This can be a win for a team trying to make a truly confounding mystery, but the meat of it isn’t appetizing. The substance of what Ultrasound presents isn’t novel; it’s the presentation that is different. It’s also what makes it challenging.
While this film may not be for everyone, it still manages to provide several bright spots for interested viewers. The cast does a great job with their characters. Filled with sleazy, dopey, and crass players, it keeps the action going knowing how unpredictable everyone can be. Central trio Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, and Bob Stephenson are stand outs amongst the crew. Ultrasound is also a very technically adept film. Filmed with plenty of dizzying and confining shots, the filmmakers know how to make the viewer uncomfortable. The production values are good and it leans heavy into sharp lines and bold contrasts throughout the feature.
While Ultrasound brings plenty of interesting ideas to the table, it doesn’t make up for the irritating plot structure in which they are presented. While the wavy narrative adds more to the horrors of hypnosis and medical experimentation, its constant interruption makes it difficult to understand exactly what is happening. Behind the questionable plot decisions and clunky dialogue, there are several good performances amongst the main cast. It isn’t a film for everyone, and it should be noted that it leans far heavier on the science fiction and drama than horror. Regardless, those seeking out a “Twilight Zone”-esque thriller may find themselves seeking out an order for an Ultrasound.
Overall Score? 5/10