David Lynch is one of the few directors who can pull off an ethereal thriller steeped in the bizarre. Writer/director Glen Grefe shouldn’t even try, as his “look into the human brain” known as “Nutcracker” deftly demonstrates. You see, thrillers are supposed to be, well, thrilling. You’re supposed to be sitting on the edge of your seat … but not because you’re waiting for the movie to be over.
“Nutcracker” is a mixed bag of experimental psychotherapy, murder, egotism to the nth degree, a dark family history and infidelity. It deals primarily with the conflict between Dr. Carlton Fairfax (Bill Bragg) and his mysterious patient, John Gard (David Hess, who was in the far superior “Last House on the Left.”) To say that this patient/therapist relationship is a bit strained is an understatement, but it really doesn’t do anything to move the plot or inspire a modicum of emotion. It should, though, because it’s the crux of the story!
This film may have been an excellent idea on paper, and its premise does show promise, but it is destroyed by tepid acting, traumatically atrocious dialogue and a few clichéd characters, an example of which would be the two homicide detectives. Whenever these two sitcom buffoons show up on the screen, “Nutcracker” derails into a groan-inducing comedy — something Grefe should have been trying to avoid.
Grefe’s film knows what it wants to be, but it never fulfills its mission, and the blame for that should be placed squarely on his shoulders. He takes a good idea, mixes it with actors who could probably do a passable job with the right material, and then chews it up and excretes the type of waste you wouldn’t even use as fertilizer. Thrillers should grab you by your short hairs and make you feel like there is a real danger just around the corner, and no movie, thriller or not, should waste viewers’ time. “Nutcracker” fails on the first point, but succeeds beyond belief on the second. Better luck next time, though perhaps it is better if there is no next time.