Incontrol (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A group of college-age kids discover a device that projects their consciousness into the minds of others.

REVIEW: In concept, writer/director Kurtis David Harder’s sci-fi thriller INCONTROL reminded me of STRANGE DAYS, the 1995 Kathryn Bigelow-directed, James Cameron-scripted film that involved a device called SQUID, which would record a person’s life experiences directly from their cerebral cortex to disc. These recordings could then be experienced by anyone else – you could see a moment from someone else’s life through their own eyes (or even re-experience a moment you recorded of your own life) and feel every emotion and physical sensation that went along with it. INCONTROL also deals with a device that allows its users to experience the lives of others through their own eyes, but the difference here is that the characters aren’t watching recordings. Their consciousness is projected into the minds of others so they can experience their lives in real time, as it’s happening. And they can even manipulate what’s going on, control the person whose body they’re in.

The users in this film are a quartet of college-age kids – sociology student Samantha (Anja Savcic), who works at a coffee shop to support her emotionally troubled mother; Samantha’s friend / crush Mark (Levi Meaden); and a pair of Mark’s friends who Samantha is just meeting – Victor (Rory J. Saper), who is a wild card because any movie like this needs a character who has the capability of doing something terrible at any moment, and Jenny (Shayla Stonechild), who pays her apartment rent with money she steals from the rich kids she sends her consciousness into. This bunch aren’t fans of rich kids. The device they use to go body hopping isn’t really explained, it’s just something that Victor found at the university and decided to steal.

We follow Samantha into this situation and learn the rules of this device through her, as the others have already been using it for a while. The person you send your consciousness into has to be nearby, the further they get away from you and the device, the harder it will be for you to bring your consciousness back into your own body. It’s also hard on you if you are in the other person’s mind for too long. You need to come back from time to time. Samantha is also advised not to jump into anyone she knows. It’s a trust thing. Invading the privacy of strangers, that’s fine.

For the most part, the group uses the device for fun. They experience rich kid parties; Samantha, who is allergic to peanuts, gets to taste peanut butter while in another person’s head; they can find out what it’s like to be a different gender. But darkness starts to creep in amongst the fun, as it quickly becomes difficult to know when a character is interacting with a person who is who they appear to be or if someone else is in the person’s head, and of course anyone who has the ability to control someone else’s actions is going to start using that ability to achieve their own agenda. Like Jenny stealing the money. There’s also the possibility of something terrible happening while you’re in someone else’s mind.

The body hopping concept is great, the questions INCONTROL brings up about privacy and what a person might do if they could be someone else for a little while are quite interesting, but the movie doesn’t really explore its own ideas in a satisfying way. When the end credits started rolling less than 77 minutes in, I was left feeling that so much more could have been done with this set-up. The film is preoccupied with college parties and unrequited love, and it doesn’t branch out far beyond that.

I was also left wondering if these kids want to be someone else so bad because their own personalities are so weak. I wasn’t able to connect with or really care about any of these characters. Since we’re following Samantha we do side with her a little bit and maybe root for her, to improve the situation with her mother if nothing else, but she’s so milquetoast that she makes it tough to do anything more than just observe what she’s going through without strong emotions in any direction.

There are thrills to this sci-fi thriller, but they’re honestly not that thrilling. Bad things happen, sure, but they were met by me with a shrug. Don’t expect this one to drift into the horror genre. In fact, the best way to approach INCONTROL is probably to just see it as a college drama. There are sci-fi elements and it goes down a dark path, but it really is a college drama more than anything.

INCONTROL is worth watching for the core ideas alone, but you shouldn’t expect too much from it because it wasn’t aiming too high. If it were a college student itself, it would be getting lectures about not living up to its potential.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.