Unlike “haunted house” movies, the rarer “killer house” movies ditch the ghosts and, instead, focus on buildings outfitted with fancy gadgetry that’s easily weaponized. Early on, the psychological thriller “Distorted” is ambiguous about which kind of story it’s telling — perhaps to a fault. Eventually, though, it falls squarely on the side of technophobia.
Christina Ricci stars as Lauren, an artist with a history of bipolar disorder. When she and her beleaguered husband, Russel (Brendan Fletcher), move into an ultra-modern, super-secure condominium complex, she suspects their home’s dozens of electronic devices are messing with her mind. Russel and their new neighbors insist that it’s just Lauren’s old demons, plaguing her anew.
Journeyman director Rob W. King and the equally eclectic veteran screenwriter Arne Olsen pitch “Distorted” as a subtle exploration of a troubled woman’s psyche, in the tradition of filmmakers like Roman Polanski. They save their shocks for Lauren’s “attacks,” which play out as a blitz of disturbing images and on-screen text.
Their approach is too sedate. Even after Lauren consults with an investigative journalist (played by John Cusack) who’s researched brainwashing experiments, their conversations are so muted that “Distorted” never builds up enough intense paranoid energy.
What the movie does have going for it is Ricci, who in the past few years has become a master at playing offbeat heroines in violent stories. Ricci is convincingly terrified in a film that’s never scary enough to justify her performance.
Rated: R for some violence and disturbing images
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica