Something’s not lining up: A critical review of “Intersect” (2020)

We’ve been through a lot lately, haven’t we? Weird old Chinese cartoons, not quite cult classics, Sig Haig. But after watching those somewhat awful cosmic horror films, upon returning to the one that I initially thought was the worst of the worst, it did not seem quite as bad. Maybe that’s maturing, tonstant Weader. Alternatively, maybe my brain is starting to rot. Still, 2020’s “Intersect” feels to e like it still has a unique place in the halls cosmic horror, science thriller and tales of time travel, if only for how many half-baked ideas it manages to cram into its span.

“Intersect” is sort of a story about three childhood friends turned Miskatonic University scientists trying to unlock the secrets of time. They’ve got it pretty good when it comes to launching jars of marbles approximately 40 seconds into the future (I’m not sure how they’re gauging that the marbles have gone through time, actually; are they older than when they started?); however, all the mice they send through the Stargate-style time machine keep vomiting blood and melting. It’s probably not a good sign that the temporal portal looks like a angry cloud of black sick. In addition to figuring that out, they’ll also ponder the motivations of a mob of religious protesters; one of the scientist’s mysterious childhood; the similarly mysterious death of another; the nature of strange creatures that may or may not be connected to their experiments; a pendant, I think; that little box with the brown paper and string. There are so many dangling threads that the film has no interest in tying up, so neither do I.

I think I know what’s wrong, though. Writer-producer-director Gus Holwerda likes a bunch of trippy thrillers – “12 Monkeys,” “The Time Machine,” “Memento,” “Call of Cthulhu,” “Event Horizon,” maybe even “Vertigo” and “The Fountain.” I get it. I like all of those too. The problem is, I don’t think they should all be crammed into the same movie.

You can’t keep excitedly adding random plot elements into a script and, instead of completing, explaining or linking any of them together, just call it “nonlinear storytelling”… I mean, you can, clearly, this film exists, but it’s not good. There is no sense of togetherness to “Intersect.” Nothing ever gets done. Watching it is a chore.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so tough if the film was intelligently shot or performed by a talented cast, but none of that exists here either. The camerawork is nothing to write home about. It’s very jumpy, with a fondness for wandering, bobbing up and down and close-ups. Sometimes it’s almost interesting; other times it’s jarring; usually it’s just annoying. There’s also something curiously unnerving about the look and sound of the film, as if everything was photographed in front of a green screen, dubbed in post, or both.

As for the actors, they aren’t even up to being a mixed bag. They either look bored or are behaving so broadly they border on parody. One scientist with a penchant for the drink constantly acts like a teenager getting plastered for the first time. Later, when paranormal phenomena start popping up, the collective response is a barely concerned shrug. I don’t know. Maybe the actors couldn’t understand the script either. Curiously, the children (in the time travel flashbacks) tend to be more convincing, possibly because one expects kids to be sulky or enthusiastic to the point of irritation.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing indie horror. This kind of thing can be done in a satisfying way. Two auteur driven no budget thrillers are the early Mike Flanagan effort “Absentia” and Shawn Linden’s “Nobody” (which this blog raved about not too long ago). Both of those films have loopy grasps on time and attempted something mythic. They are both arguably as ambitious as “Intersect.” What they have that it lacks is an attention span.

Still, if you’re into that sort of thing, “Intersect’s” lack of focus can lead to some unintentionally comic moments. My favorite was a schoolyard bully who is heard grunting in awful pain off camera, like he’s passing a kidney stone. We cut to him to see him standing up. Is his back out? He’s pretty young for it, but it can happen.

Elsewhere, scientist Nate stumbles into the lab after a night on the town. A coupe of lab techs are still working. They seem surprised. “It’s late,” one says. It is, so why are they there too? I also notice the science gentlemen tend to have casual wear under their white coats, but the science ladies tend to have heels and above the knee skirts. Is that industry standard? I’m not a science lady, so I’m the wrong person to ask. None of this is mentioning the characters that are brought up like we’ve always known them, the blended family drama that appears halfway through the narrative, the last second twist that’s so disconnected I don’t even think it qualifies as a twist…

In fact, “Intersect” is so distracted and irrational, I would heartily recommend it to people who like bad thrillers except for its two hour run time. That’s a tall commitment. This blog is willing to take that hit for the team, but it’s understandable if you aren’t.

Don’t worry though. Someone does watch the original “Night of the Living Dead” on screen, so we’ve got that indie horror trope covered. I don’t know why they’re never watching one of the myriad other public domain thrillers, but whatever. At least that film is only 96 minutes long.

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