NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Writer and director Peter Cannon’s feature film debut, Exposure, pushes paranoia and post-traumatic stress to the edge. Reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller, this psychological thriller follows the wild-eyed, stressed-out, and blood-baring Tanner (Douglas Smith), who writes computer code. Tanner’s wife, Nicole (Margo Harshman), is patient and tolerant, and she tries to support him in his strange existence where everything he touches, opens or picks up is examined and suspected to be contaminated.
His bizarre behavior results from being kidnapped, tortured, and poisoned by an unknown assailant. When Nicole informs her husband that his poisoner has been released from jail, it sends him into an even bigger tailspin of frightening behavior, which she tries to manage. However, Nicole refuses to allow certain things to happen to Tanner, which begins a deeper dive into a psychotic world.
On her last straw, Nicole forces Tanner to face his fears head-on with exposure therapy. Although initially, Tanner rejects the idea, he continues after he watches a woman climb into a garbage can. He eventually bonds with leader Pat (Kevin McKorkle) and other attendees, Izzy (Ryan Whitney), Charlie (Alex Feldman), and Ezekiel (Abraham Rodrigue). He tries to deal with his condition by following the steps or “ladder” of therapy. All the while, Nicole conjures up things to keep him from destruction. However, Tanner becomes aware something is amiss and vows to take care of his assailant on his own. An interesting twist at the end reveals an unexpected transformation.
“…Tanner becomes aware something is amiss and vows to take care of his assailant…”
Throughout Exposure, Smith is a likable psycho who transforms himself several times. He makes the character believable and connects with the entire cast, lifting them all to his level. Harshman is excellent as the beleaguered wife needing a vital change for the man she loves. They both help audiences buy into the wild twist at the end.
The excellent sound effects and editing build up the suspense. The well-placed visual cues — I especially enjoyed seeing a public phone — and cinematography add to the tense atmosphere. Yet, Cannon has more important themes at work. The movie reveals how OCD is a plague on society. OCD sufferers and their uncontrollable and odd-behaving existence is a reality for many. Living with all types of fear and trying to stay safe is just as tricky when afflicted with OCD, which the pandemic exacerbated.
It is more acceptable to handle OCD than ever before, especially if it is life-threatening. Exposure provides this insight, which, in reality, so many have to take daily.
Exposure screened at the 2023 Newport Beach Film Festival.
"…Smith is a likable psycho..."