A Film a Week - Between Worlds

A piece of journalist wisdom says that the news is not when a dog bites a man, but when a man bites a dog. Put in a perspective of Nicolas Cage’s recent roles, the news would not be if he goes crazy in a movie, but if he stays “normal”. Having that in mind, Between Worlds, a sophomore feature by Maria Pulera that had the world premiere at Austin Fantastic only to enter the video distribution shortly after, is no news at all: Cage goes completely bonkers in it. For the same reason, however, it is quite an enjoyable midnight flick.

Nicolas Cage stars as Joe, a simple-minded, down on his luck truck driver who is striving to be considered as a good guy. His good intention drives him to react when he sees a woman getting strangled in a man’s room of a gas station. The woman, named Julie and played by Franka Potente (whose Run Lola Run and The Bourne Trilogy fame has kinda faded), is not that thankful because her life was not really under threat, but the whole thing was a part of a ritual that, according to her beliefs, is the only thing she can do to help her daughter Billie (an up and coming star of B-horrors Penelope Mitchell) who lies in a coma after a horrific motorcycle accident.

As we learn it, the whole idea is that a soul that has left the vessel at the point of clinical death can be steered back to the body. After his screw-up, Joe feels compelled to help Julie, they perform a ritual and hook up shortly afterwards, while Billie comes back to life. However, Billie does not seem to be herself after the accident and it might not be a simple case of amnesia. She proves to be infested by a spirit of Joe’s late wife Mary who might not be a friendly one…

The script also penned by Pulera thins out somewhere around midpoint when Billie settles back home and starts making moves towards Joe. The trajectory it takes from then on is predictable, complete with a third-act twist and a couple of dead bodies in the finale. However, the idea behind it, the one that wandering souls can “squat” someone else’s body is pretty fresh, albeit its delivery through a corny and borderline racist trope of “Magic Negro” (the nurse who guides Julie through the ritual is black and speaks with a foreign accent) is unimaginative. But the interesting part is Joe’s character development done with a bit of ambiguity for which he can be stupid, psychotic, really hurt and all of the above.

Directing such script might prove to be too much of a challenge even for the same person who wrote it, but Maria Pulera goes with a flow, completely conscious that she is making a sort of silly, modestly budgeted B-movie. It shows in the terms of cheap visual effects, but it does not hurt the film. However, the score composed by Angelo Badalamenti that is always in the background lifts the overall quality of the film even though at moments it seems too similar to his work on Twin Peaks.

Nicolas Cage as the main reason to watch this interesting and potentially cult piece of trash cinema shines as Joe even before he goes off the rails, savouring the moments of pure white-trash hedonism and being kinda goofy even during the sex scenes. The final outcome might nor be on the level of Mom & Dad or Mandy, but it is worth seeing even if you are not a Nicolas Cage enthusiast. Penelope Mitchell is dangerously seductive and vamp as Billie, while Franka Potente, playing the most sane character among the trio, gets lost in the mix and comes out a bit bland. After all, it is not about them...

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