Inside Out

To see the most lurid and preposterous suburban thrillers, you usually have to go to the straight-to-video rack, where people like Shannon Tweed will enact tales of seedy melodrama for your titillation. But now here is “Inside Out,” a movie every bit as bad as those, yet playing in a film festival! And perhaps even destined for theatrical release! Surely Kari Wuhrer gnashes her teeth in jealousy.

It is set on a sunny suburban street in Northern California, where the men all back out of the driveways at the same time each morning, and where the women are well-manicured adoring housewives. But do secrets lurk beneath? Why, yes! They do!

The neighborhood’s seemingly happy existence is disrupted by the arrival of Dr. Peoples (Eriq La Salle), who moves into his house in the middle of the night and subsequently mows his lawn at a similar hour. His nocturnal behavior, like so many details in the movie, winds up having nothing whatsoever to do with the film’s plot or psychology. I mention it only so I can point out that it’s irrelevant.

Anyway, across the street from him is our central family. Norman (Steven Weber) is a pilot and a clean freak (that second detail, again, has nothing to do with anything). His wife Maria (Nia Peeples) seems normal. Their young son Obert (Tyler Posey) has a paranoid fear of water. Early on, Norman and Maria have whispered conversations about the need to “tell” Obert something.

There’s also Frank (Russell Wong), a gambler whose wife has left him. He and Norman witness some events that lead them to believe Peoples has killed a woman, yet Norman insists they should investigate on their own before calling the police. The film offers no explanation for this highly illogical behavior, nor, indeed, for any of its other random mysteries and vicissitudes.

Peoples begins to ingratiate himself into the neighborhood, especially wedging himself into the lives of Maria and Obert. His own wife is dead, he says. Died in childbirth, doing some kind of crazy new childbirthing method that takes place in water. We aren’t told what became of the baby. Do you see where this is going? That’s funny, because the movie thinks you don’t. Despite laying out every single clue in a very obvious, straightforward manner, the film still thinks you’re going to be surprised at the end, when we learn that [secrets are revealed]!!!! (I will adhere to the critic’s code of No Spoilers. Why, I don’t know. The movie’s screenplay is its own spoiler.)

It was written and directed by David Ogden, shot murkily and cheaply and scored with the cheesiest ’80s-style synthesizers known to man. I wonder if Ogden intended it as a dark satire of suburbia. Some elements, like the synchronized backing-out of the cars every morning, suggest such an agenda. But for the most part, the movie seems like a straightforward psychological thriller, albeit a crappy one, with laughable dialogue and overwrought performances. The only way I can imagine enjoying it is if there were a man and two robots sitting in the front row, mocking it.

D (1 hr., 33 min.; Not Rated, probably R for one F-word, some violence, some strong sexuality, a little nudity.)