Riley Stearns goes to war in his psychological mind-bender Faults, a film that explores troubled minds and poisonous cults. In a desperate attempt to reunite with their daughter, Claire’s parents hire mind control expert Ansel Roth to shake her mind from the firm grip of a cult known as Faults. It’s a film that pulls no punches, spiraling through psychological warfare as a man bites off way more than he can chew after locking Claire in a hotel room.
How we end up locked in a hotel room is worth mentioning, too, because that’s how we meet Ansel Roth, mind control extraordinaire. We catch up to Roth at the absolute lowest point in his life, buried in a hotel lobby doing one shitty meet & greet after the next. It’s both hilarious and sad seeing what Roth is willing to do in order to make that extra dollar, especially because we quickly find out that he owes money to the kind of people you don’t want to owe money to. Let’s just leave it at that.
After Roth seizes an opportunity to make some quick and easy (or so he thinks) cash, Faults almost immediately pulls this creepy curtain over the film. Claire’s parents beg Roth to “save” their daughter after she recently joined a cult—Faults—so he kidnaps her and takes her to a hotel room where they have a intervention of sorts. This is where the film really digs in and bends the genre lines, becoming a darkly humorous and fantastical slice of psychological horror.
It’s amazing how a good film structures itself around the very story it’s trying to tell. In Faults’ case, the narrative uses tonal shifts in style and atmosphere in order to toy with your mind, just like Claire does with Ansel. What starts as a dark comedy about a man hitting rock bottom, slowly turns into a psychological slow-burn that scratches and claws its way under your skin. Throw that into the isolated setting of a sleazy hotel room and you have a wonderfully weird cinematic concoction that gives ‘psychological thriller’ a whole new meaning.
The cast, while small, is great—especially Leland Orser (Roth) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Claire), who both turn in fantastic performances. A story like this—one that is very claustrophobic—completely hinges on its characters, and both Orser and Winstead really allow Faults to be at its very best. These two go head-to-head for the majority of the film, delivering a journey that hits all the genre sweet spots. The best moments in the film start and stop with these two.
But if there was any true fault in Faults, it’s towards the end. While most of the film is good about keeping its major story elements a secret, it can’t avoid the simple fact that the narrative is ultimately predictable. It’s odd, too, because so much of it is a mystery, especially its characters. And it’s because of this that the final moments in the film just didn’t hit as hard as it should have. It’s not a deal-breaker (obviously) because the entire journey is well worth taking.
Faults is no doubt a fantastic and promising start to Stearns’ directorial career and I can’t wait to see what he does next. It’s an emotional film tied together by the mystery of the mind, letting its psychological narrative dig away at the deepest, darkest corners of your brain.
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