FEATURING: April Hand, Jeff Hartley, Beverley Promersberger, Mike Engle, Megan Peterson, Esaw Parker Jr., Britney Land

Still from The Synthetic Man (2013)

PLOT: A young woman (April Hand) filled with anxiety and paranoia escapes into herself and creates a fantasy world involving ancient aliens who control the human race through the”Synthetic Man,” a figure shrouded in mystery who may hold the key to the woman’s tangled past.

COMMENTS: Imagine watching a really low-budget and serious (non-comedy) version of Gentlemen Broncos and you’ll have a clear idea of what it’s like to sit through The Synthetic Man. This is the third feature from John R. Hand, whose previous work I haven’t encountered yet—and I think I’ll keep it that way, judging from this latest effort. There are some interesting ideas here, but they’re undone by questionable execution.

Essentially the film is an extended look inside the mind of Iris, who is already obviously disturbed—we are introduced to her in the midst of her dream of being groped by a gloved figure. She appears to live an isolated existence; she has no friends or family or boyfriend and she never appears to have any interaction with any other person. Her only outlet is writing a novel, a science-fiction novel she calls ‘The Synthetic Man,” a title taken from one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books she finds in the library. It’s also the name she gives to her dream groper, and via watching really bad science fiction television programs combined with her own fevered imagination, she creates an oft-told tale of aliens controlling humanity through the titular character. Most of the movie is a dramatization of this novel, which gets increasingly violent and culminates with The Synthetic Man raping and impregnating random human females.

Someone once remarked that there’s nothing more boring than watching junkies onscreen for over an hour; that can be amended to there’s nothing more boring than watching sexually frustrated paranoid schizophrenics create fourth-rate pulp science-fiction/sexual-fantasy for over an hour. Perhaps the Europeans can actually pull off something like this and have it be an artistic triumph, but it seems to be just a bit beyond Mr. Hand’s grasp. However, there are moments of unintentional comedy that provide some entertainment, most of which are provided by April Hand’s performance, which consists of her making expressions like the one pictured above. The other moment of unintentional hilarity is the film’s climax, when The Synthetic Man’s purpose is graphically demonstrated in what I assume to be an homage to a sequence in Donald Cammell’s Demon Seed, just lower-rent in budget and execution.

JRH Films

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“Writer/director Hand’s previous two films have been strange in their own right, but The Synthetic Man is easily his most bizarre film yet.”–Jason Coffman, Film Monthly

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