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The Independent Critic

Timothy J. Cox, Anthony Carey, Matthew Mahler
Matthew Mahler
75 Mins.

 Movie Review: Protanopia 
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I should start off with a disclaimer. I didn't care for writer/director Matthew Mahler's Protanopia, a surreal horror film that will no doubt appeal to quite a few others and continues Mahler's cinematic tendencies toward dark themes and darker humanity. 

I'm fine with dark. Truly. In fact, I usually enjoy it. However, I never quite got into Protanopia's unique rhythms and I found watching it a bit of a chore. 

Here's the thing. Film journalism isn't about "like." It's not. It's not about good or bad. It's about the experience of film and trying, as objectively as possible, to communicate that experience in a way that lets moviegoers decide for themselves whether or not to watch it for themselves. I'm not some Pentecostal pastor. I'm not going to tell you what to believe, though as a human being it's also likely undeniable that the fact I didn't particularly enjoy Protanopia will still influence my review. 

So, you may be surprised that I still give the film a 3-star review. It's a thumbs up. Again, that's how film journalism works. You set aside your own feelings and you immerse yourself in the experience of a film. There's nothing wrong with being uncomfortable and there's nothing wrong with not liking a film. That doesn't make it a bad film (Okay, sometimes it does.). It simply shapes how you share the experience with others. 

Protanopia is a unique cinematic beast, a 74-minute visual mindfuck centered around a simple synopsis - After Luke's (Anthony Carey) sister Mallory (James Chase) goes missing, he begins having dreams of a strange house. That house is owned by Alan Roscoe Jr. (Timothy J. Cox), a now HOA head who had the house passed down to him after the recent death of his father. But, something about this house isn't right and Alan seems to care for it in increasingly strange and disturbing ways. 

This synopsis doesn't begin to reveal just how guttural Protanopia gets. This isn't unique for Mahler, whose short films What Jack Built, Dark Romance, and To Be Alone have all been courageous, dark cinematic adventures. We know we're in for something different when the film opens with a Leviticus quote and an ominous aura. The film gets more intense and ominous as it moves forward. 

It would seem narratively that Anthony Carey is the lead here as Luke, the grieving half-brother desperate to determine what happened to his sister. However, cinematically there's little denying that Timothy J. Cox's Alan dominates the film with a performance that is edgy even for an actor who's never been afraid of stretching his limits and exploring new realms of acting. While I tend to appreciate Cox's work and have reviewed a good majority of his work, he occasionally misses precisely because he's a definite risk-taker. This risk pays off richly. 

Filmed in Ronkonkoma, New York, Protanopia finds its cinematic life in the overwhelming sense of paranoia and obsessiveness that radiates throughout. While this is undeniably a low-budget effort, it's an effective one with immersive music by Mahler himself and a remarkably effective production design that amplifies the increasing uncertainty. Visual effects are used wisely and lensing is unsettling. There's a caution early on that those sensitive to strobe lights may want to use caution while watching the film, an appropriate trigger warning for a visually chaotic yet compelling film. 

Both Cox and Carey do tremendous work here along with Paula Mahler as Janice, a particularly intrusive neighbor, and Mahler himself makes an appearance as Jack. 

Protanopia won't appeal to everyone. Heck, it didn't particularly appeal to me. However, there's no denying it's an ambitious and largely successful film with a unique, impactful narrative by Mahler that feels relentless and impossible to ignore. While I wouldn't likely sit down with the film again, it's impossible to not respect this horror flick that suffocates rather than dominates. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic