Written by: Ron Cotton on March 20th, 2007
Release Dates: United States, 2003
Director: Michael Ferris Gibson
Cast: Jennifer West Savitch, Dominik Overstreet, Bruce Goodchild, Anne Goldmann, Andrew Ableson, Micah Epstein, Peter Macon
DVD released: March 27th, 2007
Approximate running time: 77 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Letterbox
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Heretic Indie Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
In a dark future, mankind creates solace under the constant influence of “The Drip”, a drug that induces a narcotic-like state throughout society. The Drip’s availability, addictiveness, and its debilitative qualities has made Yerba City into a venerable wasteland. Claire (Jennifer West Savitch), untouched by “The Drip” enters Yerba City hunting for the only man that has meant something to her, with just a photograph to guide her.
Flashbacks of the past resurface as Claire attempts to uncover clues that point to his whereabouts. Jerome (Peter Macon) offers little while Tobias (Andrew Ableson) informs her that while Miles (Dominik Overstreet) is untrustworthy, he knows where to find the man in the picture. A security guard, genetically altered to be immune to “The Drip”, Miles offers to take Claire to Tiburon. During the journey, Miles explains to Claire how things have changed over the years and exposes to his own personal vices. What Claire discovers next isn’t exactly what she hoped for.
Numb is a film that has been in production over a decade, going though several changes and for a time was shelved. Michael Ferris Gibson was able to buy expired Black and White film cheaply and originally titled this first work Yerba City. Yerba City was filmed in unique expansive locations in California. It assembled a talented cast with immense acting ability. Michael Farris Gibson stopped production for many years because of personal reasons and in 2002 fleshes out more of the back story with the color sequences, makes it less linear, and renames this final cut “Numb.” As a side note, Michael Farris Gibson directed “24 Hours on Craigslist,” also released by the Heretic Indie.
Numb has some of the best no-name acting talent I’ve seen for a low-budget film, hands down. Dominik Overstreet as Miles, a dominate spiteful musclebound no-nonsense guy who lives to fulfill his sexual desires is perfect. Jennifer West Savitch plays Claire, whose needs for closure outweigh the dangers ahead and as a neophyte who doesn’t have all the answers. Again, a very convincing role. Andrew Ableson and Peter Macon’s also produce a memorable performance.
Numb compares itself to such movies as Alphaville and THX-1138. Numb does shares the noir appearance of Alphaville and the alienation of THX-1138. All the movies thrust the protagonist in a situation whose ultimate goal is to seek a human solution amid the chaos. Yet, Numb isn’t a “shell” of the movies its compared to, instead it’s a unique film.
The dialog of Numb is great, and feels very human. The cinematography of the black and white film is fabulous, giving the film a sleek professional look. The compositions of the shots and the lighting were also very professional. Some backdrops made interesting effects with the lighting, like the pool scene and the 01 scene. The flashbacks were filmed amateurishly in color, similar to the influential film Raging Bull.
Unfortunately, Numb in the first fifteen minutes showcases mood and imagery rather than driving the plot forward. Overall, what Numb excelled in casting, location, dialog and cinematography; Numb certainly lacked in content. This is Numb’s downfall and Numb had so much potential to be so much more. Instead, the story is more of a cliché than a fully fleshed out narrative. I’m not saying that Numb isn’t a worthwhile watch, instead it falls flat leaving one to wonder why the story feels more desolate than the atmosphere of the film.
Numb is presented in a clear case, with a cover photo and inside that’s very fuzzy, perhaps visualize the feeling of numb, instead gives the distinct feeling of a budget label release. The images appear as if it came directly from the DVD, instead of production stills. The DVD asserts that Numb is a 16:9 feature, which I would infer as an anamorphic widescreen DVD. Instead, Numb was mastered as an inferior 4:3 letterbox. The original film print being 35mm film, I don’t understand why they would master Numb in such an inferior way. This strikes a blow to it’s presentation. The animated menus on this film were aggravating, making viewers wait an obscene amount of time before reaching the menu selections.
The video itself is very clean with only one visual defect in the entire show. Although many would complain that this feature is 77 minutes, this isn’t the real reason why Numb doesn’t feel like a complete film. The audio mix is very professional and clean and doesn’t contain any amateurish sounds that you’d hear in other independent productions. The musical compositions created by Mark DeGliatoni was very emotional and inspiring.
Numb offers very little when it comes to bonus material: Director’s Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and Heretic Trailers. The commentary contains only the voice of director Michael Farris Gibson. Michael goes into some detail about his shooting locations, the actors he’s worked with, why it took a decade to complete Numb, some the back story that’s never explained in the film, and the technical aspects of the film. Trailers include 24 Hours on Craigslist, Lurking in Suburbia, Kissing on the Mouth, Piece by Piece, The Last Broadcast, Head Trauma, Shockheaded, London Voodoo, Red Cockroaches, and Cold Blood.
The deleted scenes are on the back of the keep case are named Esperanto deleted scenes. For those who don’t already know, Esperanto is a constructed language proposed and invented by Zamenhof in 1887. Esperanto is presented in such science fiction films like Blade Trinity and Gattaca. Only two of the three deleted scenes contain Esperanto: The Subversives and Subversives Demise. All the deleted scenes contain an introduction explaining the scene. While I felt that Claire’s Brother was poorly shot, the Esperanto scenes could have easily been integrated into the film.
Overall, Numb lacks plenty. It lacks an anamorphic widescreen presentation, it lacks any serious extras, the story lacks enough meat to sink your teeth into. Instead, the film is clearly more empty than full. In the past, I’ve preferred many Heretic Films releases, and luckily Numb isn’t representative of their DVD catalog. Numb is clearly a feature to rent.
For more information about Numb and other titles released by Heretic films visit their website.