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By Merle Bertrand | November 1, 1999

Bobby Kim (Johnathan Staci Kim) is an eager patient/guinea pig in a brave new world that uses psychotropic drugs to achieve internal virtual realities. For two years, he’s been splayed out on a slab in a low-rent Giger-esque warehouse room cluttered with dingy plastic curtains, tubes, and life support equipment. It’s a far cry from the immaculate, NASA White Room-like atmosphere he encountered when he volunteered for the program. Something’s gone amiss and it’s a good bet that either the seedy Dr. Darren (Rick Wessler) or his nurse, a desperate haunted junkie named Angela (Nancy Gianzero) has something to do with it.
Mark Wilkinson offers up a chilling, depressing vision of medical science run amuck here. Yet, for all its gritty ambiance, “The Next Big Thing” founders on its muddled storyline. The details of the program Kim is on are unclear as are the conflicting visions of his medical staff. Have Dr. Darren and company been booted from legitimate medical surroundings into their current squalor or have they always been in that squalor; the pristinely scrubbed hospital setting a figment of Kim’s chemically altered perceptions? This is a sobering film, nonetheless. We don’t know what the rest of this world is like, but if it’s anything like the cyberpunk heroin chic setting Angela, Dr. Darren and Kim inhabit, I’m in no hurry to reach the future.

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