‘Murder is a matter of perspective’
Kaleidoscope is a 2016 British psychological thriller feature film written and directed by Rupert Jones. The movie stars his brother, Toby Jones (Berberian Sound Studio), Anne Reid, and Sinéad Matthews.
Kaleidoscope seems to hit all the buttons for modern, pompous British horror (if, indeed, it is horror).
Council Estate? Tick.
Ambiguous time frame? Tick.
Banal scenes backed by a dramatic score? Tick.
Murky and bleak, as if Ken Loach was making a horror film? Tick.
Toby Jones? Tick.
To be fair, Kaleidoscope is far from the worst example of this sort of thing, the main offence being leaden pacing that makes the 100-minute film feel a great deal longer. It also suffers from poor characterisation, though that is arguably a plot device as it follows down-trodden Carl (Jones), a year out of prison for some unspecified crime, who meets a woman, Abby (Sinead Matthews) who is apparently out to steal from him, and who he may or may not have murdered. To complicate things, Carl’s domineering and manipulating mother (Anne Reid) shows up to stay. Or, again, does she?
As a psychological drama where we enter Carl’s own fractured reality, the film is not without some impressive moments, and the hints at the darkness from his past relationship with his mother – there are slight suggestions of incest and murder in their history – are done well. There are knowing nods towards both Hitchcock (Psycho, of course) and Polanski (The Tenant).
Occasionally, these films rise above the new cliches of the genre to become something interesting – The Ghoul,(2016) was better than it had any right to be for instance – but all too often they sink into self-satisfied pseudo-artiness, designed to impress the sort of horror fan who seems a bit embarrassed to be a horror fan and so clings to this sort of thing as a way of proving that yes, they really are super-intelligent people who appreciate the finer arts. Elevated Horror is both the emperor’s new clothes and a plague on the genre.
Unfortunately, the film drags on and on and writer/director Rupert Jones (brother of star Toby) seems far too much in love with his own material, which isn’t quite as smart or provocative as he might think it is. There’s perhaps a decent TV drama in this if it was chopped down, but it doesn’t really cut the mustard as a movie, and like many an ‘elevated horror’ movie, it feels rather slight when you get down to it.
David Flint – guest reviewer via The Reprobate
Other reviews [may contain spoilers – click the links to read more]:
“There’s an excellent sense of location here, along with very good actors giving very good performances, making up for the film’s twist ending, which is a bit exasperating […] At its best, Kaleidoscope is like an unsettling dream featuring an Escher staircase that plunges infinitely and vertiginously downwards.” The Guardian
“With artistic flair aplenty and gripping performances across the board, it’s a shame Kaleidoscope suffers from some pacing issues in the second and third act. A tighter edit may have allowed a more natural flow to the surface narrative and help maintain tension before that note-perfect conclusion.” Movie Review World
” …the slow pacing and oblique nature of the plot might frustrate as the film ultimately proves to be ambiguous to an almost maddening degree. Appearing on screen for almost the entire run time, Toby Jones is excellent in his portrayal of a lonely, isolated man dealing with strained familial relationships and a past he’d rather forget.” Seen Some
“It’s very well-filmed: shadows, smoke, closed doors and eerie angles all add to the controlled, tense atmosphere. But the biggest asset of Kaleidoscope is its central star: a dozen revealing and contrasting emotions flicker across his face in a way that feels both honest and mesmerising.” Time Out (London)
” …stylistically and structurally innovative in a way that so many other British thrillers of this nature simply are not. Whilst the narrative complexity of Kaleidoscope may not be for everyone, it is an ambitious project that is sure to gain a cult following in years to come.” The Wee Review
Kaleidoscope was released in UK cinemas on 10th November 2017. A DVD release by Sparky Pictures followed on 23rd September 2019.
In the US, IFC Midnight released the film in select theatres and VOD on December 8, 2017.
Cast and characters:
- Toby Jones … Carl
- Anne Reid … Aileen
- Sinead Matthews … Abby
- Karl Johnson … John
- Deborah Findlay … Maureen
- Joseph Kloska … Joe
- Tim Newton … Officer Fry
- Cecilia Noble … Monique
- Clare Perkins … Launderette Assistant
- Frederick Schmidt … Wesley
- Manjinder Virk … Officer Torrington
- Andy Williams … Plumber
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1