Writer-director Bennett Davlin's adaptation of his own novel is stylish and twisty, but not clever enough to support its more outrageous plot machinations.
While attending a medical conference in Brazil, neuroscientists Taylor Briggs (Billy Zane) and Deepra Chang (Terry Chen) are asked by local doctors to examine a patient whose brain scans show puzzling abnormalities. While examining the comatose man's possessions, Briggs comes into contact with a mysterious white powder and later has a vivid, disturbing dream involving a man in a black coat and a cracked, doll-like mask running through some oddly familiar woods, and a little girl buried alive in a wooden box. Briggs' dreams/hallucinations continue after he returns home, becoming increasingly specific: The woods are where he and his mother (Deirdre Blades) vacationed when he was a child, and a newspaper dates the events to 1971. As the dreams continue, Briggs realizes he's experiencing the disordered recollections of a serial killer responsible for kidnapping and murdering a string of little girls. Matters are further complicated when Briggs sees a painting that resembles the running man of his dreams and falls for the artist (Tricia Helfer, of TV's Battlestar Galactica) who created it. Chang, meanwhile, discovers that the Brazilian powder contains a chemical that allows memories to be passed between relatives. So whose nasty memories are rattling around in Briggs' brain? He suspects they belong to the father he never knew, but Briggs' mother has lost her memory to Alzheimer's disease and old family friends/surrogate parents Max (Dennis Hopper) and Carol (Ann-Margret) claim to know nothing about Briggs' father.
Genre buffs will figure out the mystery pretty quickly, in part because there are so few suspects from whom to choose — to Davlin's credit, he plays fair. And while the high-profile cast will make the film stand out from the run of direct-to-DVD thrillers, there's nothing else about it that justifies a theatrical release; in fact, it's the kind of slight thriller that plays better on late-night TV or home video, where its small virtues are a pleasant surprise rather than a letdown. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh