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By Michael Talbot-Haynes | January 3, 2023

Written, directed, cut, and shot by indie auteur Antero Alli, the eyebrow-launching feature Tracer is proof of the existence of secret cinematic kicks you didn’t know were to be had. The Blade Runner-like opening scroll informs us that Russian mafia psychic killers, called tracers, are using drugs to get into our dreams.

Tracer begins in a motel room in Portland, where a tracer with a waxed mustache (Douglas Allen) doses the mysterious C-9 chemical and falls backward into a cosmic haze. The mob assassin arrives in a dream where old and tattooed Leo (Rick Wilding) buries a dead man (West Ramsey) in a pile of leaves. Leo awakens, remembering the last part of the dream where he is running away down railroad tracks. The tracer comes to the motel room, recalling the same thing.

“….Russian mafia psychic killers, called tracers, are using drugs to get into our dreams.”

Meanwhile, Leo’s son, Erik (Benjamin Ervin), is in Portland to reconnect with his father, who he hasn’t seen for several years. Erik drops in on his ex-girlfriend, Polly (Kasia Caravello), who puts herself into a trance for her followers online. She informs him that patriarchal forces have for centuries claimed women were insane when in fact, they had psychic powers.

Next, Erik bikes over to the docks as Leo lives on a houseboat. Leo tells Erik stories about how LSD and following Timothy Leary’s teachings made him the man he is today. Erik sees videos online from the psychedelic ranger 8 Circuit Man (Sage Reilly) about how amazing C-9 is and how you should grab some before it becomes illegal. Polly sees the same videos and thinks C-9 is a death trip. Meanwhile, the tracer keeps drugging and haunting Leo’s dreams, slowly closing in.

Tracer bills itself as a sci-fi noir suspense picture, and that’s a good start for setting your expectations. Shot by Alli in jarringly stark black and white, the look is old-school Jarmusch while the taste is old-school Cronenberg, sort of a Scanners in Paradise. The monochrome pallet summons a 1980s indie vibe, where budgetary necessities became creative launchpads. The black and white also set many expectations of dramatic impacts rather than trippy visuals, which you get as well. While the science fiction elements dominate the narrative, the momentum is pointed in the direction of the relationships these unusual people have with each other.

Tracer (2022)

Directed and Written: Antero Alli

Starring: Douglas Allen, Rick Wilding, Sage Reilly, Benjamin Ervin, Kasia Caravello, West Ramsey, Ellen Pinney, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

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"…proof of the existence of secret cinematic kicks you didn't know there were to be had."

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