Director: Antonio Tublen
Writer: Antonio Tublen
Producer: Antonio Tublen, Alexander Brondsted, Fredric Ollerstam
Stars: Patrik Karlson, Johanna Tschig, Per Lofberg, Ahnna Rasch, Lukas Loughran, Erik Boren, Bjorn Lofberg Egner
An audio enthusiast discovers a sound frequency he can use to control the minds of his next-door neighbors.
Few things can turn a film into a disappointment faster than a great concept executed to mediocre effect. “LFO” is a top tier example. Its story of a paunchy Average Joe who stumbles upon the secret to mind control is rife with the potential for clever ideas both comedic and frightening. But a script that settles for a limiting tale about reprogramming the couple next door is too blasé and too predictable to ever be resoundingly satisfying.
Being an unnoticeable nobody is arguably the only thing Robert Nord has ever been truly successful at. Overdue for his regular trim at Supercuts, Robert is the kind of middle-aged sad sack who wears the skinny end of his necktie longer than the fat end. His only sanctuary for escaping the tedious drone of a nondescript life and his nagging cheat of a wife is the homemade sound studio built in his man cave refuge of a basement.
While fiddling with frequencies as part of an ongoing experiment to cure a “sound allergy” in his quest for meditative peace, Robert inadvertently finds a particular hum so soothing that the human brain cannot help but become hypnotized. When he discovers that subliminal suggestions made during these Zen moments can implant instructions into any susceptible mind, the armchair scientist puts his accidental invention to the test by turning his new neighbors into unknowing lab rats.
Secretly commanding someone to act against his/her individual will is hardly an innocent objective. But circumstances progress from a lightheartedly questionable morality to a dangerously problematic predicament as Robert ensconces himself in an unstoppable snowball of ever-increasing chaos to repair the side effects of each subsequent hypnosis session.
Naturally, Robert convinces his comely neighbor Linn to subconsciously find him irresistibly sexy. The bigger challenge is moving her husband Simon out of the way, a task that proves surmountable when Robert casts the poor spouse as a subservient house slave. These slow-falling dominos make for momentary amusements as “LFO” takes a turn into conceptually darker territory while Robert ups the ante in just how far he will go to alter unnatural behavior. Unfortunately, it is this line straddle between not quite cautionary sci-fi and drily satirical humor that gives the film an undecidedly ambiguous personality.
“LFO” is a 90-minute film that feels like 190, and it is the languid pacing that prevents the storyline from fully spreading its artistic wings. Act one is a belabored explanation of Robert’s invention, which stalls the roll of the storyline in order to justify the science behind how such auditory mind control might even be possible. It is an unnecessary indulgence to make the script credible when anyone already onboard with the premise could care less about planting convicted roots that deeply into the fiction’s soil.
When Robert goes on holiday and leaves Linn and Simon to care for the house in his absence, he leaves them a list of instructions. Before departing, Robert verbally bullet points each and every task to the letter from various maintenance chores to painting a room. Robert goes into wall color options on the latter assignment, vacillating between some kind of cream or eggshell hue well beyond the point of tedium. I can’t imagine what writer/director Antonio Tublen felt was being added to the story with such long-winded tangents, but the details become so excessive throughout the film that the viewer has already mentally moved on while “LFO” is still rambling.
Whether intentionally as part of the movie’s theme, or unintentionally as a result of the movie’s structure, “LFO” is a taxing experience that can be as hypnotically draining as the monotonous hum of low frequency oscillation. It could be partly due to the primary staging being set against beige walls in single rooms, but the drab atmosphere, slow-rolling tempo, and attention investment required by unimportant asides is exhausting. “LFO” dances around fascinating possibilities to be sure, but the final delivery is funneled through a stifling plotline that has too little payoff.
Review Score: 60