Skip to main content

See also:

Movie Review: 'Upstream Color' (2013)-Netflix streaming roulette

Upstream Color


This is the seventh in a series of 'Netflix streaming roulette' reviews. Austin horror examiner Michael Taylor reviews the first horror(ish) movie off 'Netflix' streaming that he's never seen before. Wish him luck.

'Upstream Cover' movie poster
'Upstream Cover' movie poster

'Upstream Color' rode a flurry of good critical buzz when it was released last year. So I was excited that it popped up in my Netflix recommendations.

The story is certainly original; a young woman named Kris played by Amy Seimetz ('You're Next') is kidnapped, drugged and put into a hypnotic state by a drug dealer. He brainwashes her and makes her ingest a substance composed of insect larvae and a mysterious plant. She awakens, infected and disoriented.

A year later she meets a man named Jeff (played by the film's director Shane Caruth) who shares her psychological disconnect, and they investigate the root of her trauma, and deal with the full impact of her physical transformation.

The movie tells this story in disjointed vignettes, full of broken syntax of deliberately abstract concepts and fragmented thought. The problem is the movie is not the sum of it's parts, and not all the parts work. Amy Seimetz is a capable actress, but neither her or Caruth command much sympathy.

Every scene seems so packed with 'meaning' but there's no real payoff. Caruth seems to worship at the altar of Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg, and these influences tend to cancel each other out. The serene beauty of the film dilutes the horrific biological threat.

There's some lovely images, some disturbing ones, and one wishes Caruth could weave a better narrative through them. It's art house pretensions take away the dark thrills one expects from a genre picture. Some may find this novel and innovative, but it felt more like surface noise (speaking of noise, the repetitive atonal score was an irritating distraction); too obsessed with trying to outsmart the audience rather than engage it. Many will try to derive a deeper meaning, but I was too removed to care much for the outcome or further analysis.

'Upstream Color' is unrated and runs 96 minutes.