Screenwriter/neurologist Dr. Wayne C. Dees and director Jorge Ameer’s Altered Perceptions opens with text reiterating that the thriller is a “work of fiction.” That seemingly innocuous and perhaps useless warning is actually prepping exceptions. The filmmakers’ ambitious feature tackles everything from COVID-19, its vaccines, deep fakes, fake news, lies and misinformation spread by elected leaders, intentionally false reporting from news sources, states’ rights versus the federal government, and LGBTQIA+ issues. Oh, and it is all veiled within science fiction trappings.
Alex (Oran Stainbrook) is an up-and-comer in the political world. He currently works for Senator Ted DeMarcos (Danny Fehsenfeld) from Texas, who wields a lot of power behind the scenes. Alex’s father is noted neurologist Dr. Joseph Feretti (Matt Fling), who the President of the United States has just hired to look into a new pandemic sweeping across 34 countries worldwide. Said disease affects elderly people, roughly 60 years old and beyond, and causes them to enter extreme dementia so they forget where they are, when, and who they know.
“… a ‘time traveler’ appears to Alex and tells him Senator DeMarcos is up to no good and knows more about these awful events than he lets on.”
The altered perceptions of these people lead them to shocking acts of violence. One man stabs a stranger in the streets several times. A different person, John (Eric Roberts), wakes up in the hospital believing he’s 30 years younger than he is and doesn’t recognize his wife (Sally Kirkland). His response is just as brutal as the other acts witnessed. Things get complicated when a “time traveler” appears to Alex and tells him Senator DeMarcos is up to no good and knows more about these awful events than he lets on. What could the political power player possibly gain from all this turmoil? Why did the state troopers arrest Dr. Feretti’s husband, Peter (Vincent Giovanni)?
Altered Perceptions is going to piss everyone off, and therein lies its great beauty. Dees and Ameer don’t let the right or the left off the hook with a few fleeting nods. The screenplay dives deep into the issues both mainstream political parties have helped create. Eventually, the film does settle which side is more to blame, but it acknowledges in no uncertain terms that there are no winners as politics is set up to disillusion most citizens.
If that sounds like a tough pill to swallow for one independent film, it all works due to the characters. Yes, the senator is one-dimensional, but Alex, Dr. Joseph, and, surprisingly, Peter all have strong arcs that give weight to the proceedings. Of course, revealing those would venture into heavy (heavy) spoiler territory, so that’s all on that front.
"…is going to piss everyone off, and therein lies its great beauty."