These sequences are among Distorted‘s most effective, as director Rob King contrasts the ritzy sleekness of film’s setting with a smattering of off-balance compositions that suggest something not quite right just out of view. The sound design contributes to the unnerving atmosphere, as well (the “whoosh” of a cappuccino machine has never sounded as menacing as it does in this movie), and for a while, it’s engaging enough to play along with the film’s is-she-imagining-things-or-isn’t-she conceit.
Before long, though, Lauren’s investigations lead her to suspect that someone sinister is experimenting on the building’s residents, subjecting them to subliminal visual and auditory messages channeled through the building’s cable television and from hidden speakers in her apartment. This leads her to Vernon (John Cusack), a reclusive hacker/journalist/conspiracy theorist who agrees to help her get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Unfortunately, that’s about where the film’s conventional thriller plotting really starts to make itself noticeable, and along with it the middling suspense and perfunctory dialogue that are unlikely to grab viewers in any significant way. Distorted feels oddly safe and doesn’t offer any real jolts aside from one quick flash of graphic gore and the occasional Clockwork Orange-style montage of violent subliminal imagery; worse, it raises a lot of interesting and potentially relevant ideas without really exploring them beyond the most surface level.
“…contrasts the ritzy sleekness of film’s setting with a smattering of off-balance compositions that suggest something not quite right…”
Arne Olsen’s screenplay lurches back-and-forth from mildly to wildly implausible – this is a movie in which a character can essentially stroll right into the nerve center of an amazingly advanced security/surveillance facility, which doesn’t appear to have any security cameras of its own – and potentially interesting set-ups are rarely paid off. One of the most troubling things we learn about The Pinnacle, for example, is that every resident can remotely monitor their neighbors in the building’s common areas – the corridors, the fitness center, the parking garage, etc. – at any time, but the sleazy, voyeuristic implications of this invasive technology are largely ignored, and it’s only really established in order to set up a mild jump scare later on.