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State of Consciousness is available for VOD rental or purchase.

DIRECTED BY: Marcus Stokes

FEATURING: Emile Hirsch, Tatjana Nardone, Kesia Elwin

PLOT: As part of a plea deal for a murder he claims he did not commit, Stephen undergoes a questionable medical procedure which leaves him uncertain what his past, and reality, actually are.

COMMENTS: Stokes’ mind-bendy-straw is dripping with competence. The editing is smooth or jagged, as appropriate; the performances are dismayed, vicious, or cold, as appropriate; the images are clear, the lighting never draws attention to itself, and the various twists embedded in State of Consciousness work just fine. I should take a moment, however, to admit something again here: when it comes to thrillers, I am an idiot. I never see what’s around the corner until the reveal. I easily get sucked into the story and turn off my thinking mind.

But at least I generally know when a movie is merely okay, like State of Consciousness. The credibility of the protagonist is shaky. Stephen (Emile Hirsch) is seemingly dropped into a “wrong man” scenario. Or so it seems. Sometimes, it seems otherwise, as he has a knack for survival and comfort with violence we probably wouldn’t expect from a more upright citizen—evidenced most forcefully by his casual execution of two individuals at the mental institution he’s been rescued by (or doomed to). The recurring “red pills” are an obvious nod to another, more famous reality-questioning film, twisting on that particular color scheme. (Another more famous film gets its nod in the form some social commentary about freedom of choice and rendering individuals fit for society.) Memories, reality, hallucination, electro-stimulation, all of it is not much layered or sequenced so much as smashed together and soldered until a narrative line—of sorts—runs from the opening, a jazzy sex thing, up through a final, unresolved encounter with the authority figure.

I have a soft spot for Emile Hirsch, so I enjoyed this more than most might expect to, and thus am able to trumpet State of Consciousness‘ one delightfully absurd sequence. Stephen and his long-suffering girlfriend are in the bedroom after he awakes from a nightmare (or what-have-you). The weather outside is thunderous, like the emotions in the boudoir. She is near the end of her tether; for his own reasons, Stephen is, as well. They make a peace together, a plan, and we hear an ominous metal creaking—and into this now-calm tumult smashes a “Last Stop” neon sign, to tragic effect.

Or so it seems.


“The makers of State of Consciousness occasionally threaten to go somewhere darker and stranger, but they never get very far.” — Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.Com (contemporaneous)

Where to watch State of Consciousness

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