The nifty little thriller “Closer to God” tells the what-if story of the first human cloning and its fraught aftermath. With admirable economy, writer-director Billy Senese has crafted an eerie piece that’s as much an effective cautionary tale as it is a stirring film of ideas — and ideals.
A kind of modern-day “Frankenstein” infused with a David Cronenberg-like chilliness, the movie tracks the efforts of Dr. Victor Reed (Jeremy Childs), a biological scientist who has secretly cloned a baby he names Elizabeth.
The landmark experiment proves a cable news bonanza as well as a magnet for protests from the don’t-mess-with-nature crowd. Still, the impassive Reed’s motives seem largely altruistic (think genetic engineering as a way to bypass disease) even if legal, medical and ethical ramifications abound.
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Meanwhile, on the homefront, Claire (Shannon Hoppe), Reed’s wife and the mother of their two daughters, worries not just about the fallout from baby Elizabeth but the presence of the doctor’s erstwhile failed “experiment,” Ethan (Isaac Disney). Feral, deformed and prone to blood-curdling screams, he’s a boy (young man?) hidden away in the Reeds’ guesthouse and tended to by an anxious pair of married employees (Shelean Newman, David Alford).
Perhaps in response to the dubious arrival of Elizabeth, Ethan is ready to rumble — big time. Thus, the film’s third act shifts from sci-fi creep show to slasher picture as the murderous Ethan triggers mayhem across the Reed estate.
The results, in Senese’s capable hands, are tense, telling and haunting. Check this one out.
“Closer to God.”
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.