“Just forget about me, okay? Like you forgot about everything else.” These are the scathing words directed at James Winters (Giovanni Marine), the bemused and mentally unwell protagonist of Guilty Conscience. This unnerving psychological thriller/horror, written and directed by Gregg DaCosta, is about the processing of trauma and the inability to confront reality because it’s just too painful and unfathomable.
DaCosta immediately implants the idea that James is an unreliable and anguished narrator, opening with a ground-level shot of the main character sleeping on the garage floor and then waking up in his bed. Was it all a dream or more like a nightmare? We aren’t sure, and neither is James. He phones his psychiatrist, Dr. Selene (Johanne Kesten), who arrives for a house session.
“…James is once again transported to that garage, but this time…an orderly demands that James take his pills..”
During the therapy, James is once again transported to that garage, but this time, he isn’t alone. A guy dressed as an orderly demands that James take his pills, and he reacts aggressively. What is real? What appears real is James’ relationship with his fiancé, Chanel (Asia Niema), who tries to help him make sense of his surroundings. She is planning a birthday party for him, hoping to guide him back to some semblance of normality. But James continues to have episodes, which affects his relationship.
Through the immaculate editing by Patrick Flynn, Guilty Conscience plucks James from one location and hauls him to another in the blink of an eye. For example, he’s about to open the garage door on one side, and a slick invisible cut takes us to James opening the door from the other side. This distorts our sense of place as we’re now in the doorway of a brightly lit bedroom. Since we’re watching everything unfold through the lead’s eyes, there is no way of knowing if what we see is a hallucination manifested by his crippling anxiety and trauma.
"…more about the inner odyssey you take alongside James..."