Director: Riley Stearns
Screenwriter: Riley Stearns
Cast: Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Ellis, Lance Reddick, Jon Gries, Leonard Earl Howze, Beth Grant
Not Rated | 93 Minutes
Release Date: March 9, 2013
Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is under the grip of a mysterious cult. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire’s parents set out to recruit Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), one of the world’s foremost authorities on mind control.
Ansel’s specialty, deprogramming cult members and returning them to their families, is not an exact science. Mistakes were made, lives were lost. Now, even his own book publisher is looking to break his legs. Ansel desperately needs the cash that Claire’s parents (played by Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) are offering to pay his debts and continue his meager existence.
And so Ansel kidnaps Claire and brings her to a remote motel for deprogramming. But Claire reveals herself to be a formidable challenge for the old pro; her belief is unshakeable and her logic is undeniable. She can even, she claims, turn invisible and walk through walls. A battle of will develops between the two, and as they delve deeper into each other’s minds, the question soon becomes, who is the one being deprogrammed?
You know character actor Leland Orser from films like Se7en (Crazed Man in Massage Parlor), Alien Resurrection (Larry Purvis), and Saving Private Ryan, where he plays the traumatized pilot of a crashed glider. Orser also had a memorable run on the television show ER, where he played Dr. Lucien Dubenko.
As Ansel Roth, Orser is an eccentric, desperate expert on the occult, scraping a living together by making public speaking engagements and reusing coupons for complementary meals at hotel restaurants. Faults is the first time I remember seeing Orser in a leading role – and that’s a damn shame considering he’s a fantastic actor who is always memorable – even if the films he’s in aren’t.
Luckily for Orser, Faults is not only a memorable film, but a very good one too. Stearns’ first film is a wild, unsettling trip. It toes the line between absurdist comedy and creepy cult drama, feeling like an amalgam of films like The Last Exorcism and Sound of My Voice.
Speaking of Zal Batmanglij’s 2011 psychological thriller, Winstead’s troubled cult member is reminiscent of Brit Marling’s character. Throughout the film you’re questioning if she can really walk through walls or if she’s just the victim of brainwashing.
An Austin, Texas native, Riley Stearns premiered his first feature film at the SXSW Film Festival on Sunday, March 9 at the Stateside Theater. The film is based on his original screenplay, which was voted into the 2013 Black List for best unproduced scripts.
Faults is one of the highlights of SXSW: a strangely funny and unique little thriller about indoctrination, mind control, and how blind and overconfident we can be when we think we possess the absolute truth.
Follow me on Twitter!