A neuroscientist is attempting to escape from his deceased father’s shadow. In a desperate move, he uses an experimental machine on himself, causing his psyche to fracture into multiple pieces. He has to find a way to put the pieces back together or face deadly consequences.
Minor Premise has one of the most fascinating stories I have seen at Fantasia International Film Festival. The film is directed by Eric Schultz, making his feature-film directorial debut. Schultz co-wrote the film with Thomas Torrey (Fare, Savannah Sunrise) and Justin Moretto, the latter also making his feature-film debut as a writer. As the film begins, we meet Ethan, the young neuroscientist. His work seems to center on being better than his father was and getting the recognition he believes he deserves. This is what leads him to test a machine on himself that fractures his psyche. There are now 10 versions of Ethan, each one focusing on a specific facet of his personality and only having 6 minutes to be “alive” at a time. This cycle takes a toll on his mind and body, giving him a short amount of time to put his mind back together. This alone leads to a very suspenseful film, especially since only a couple of the versions of himself are helpful in trying to solve the problem. To add to the suspense, there is one version of Ethan who is actively working against the real version of himself, attempting to take over both mind and body.
The driving plot of Minor Premise is different than anything I’ve ever encountered. It presents a unique scientific goal. The consequences of trying to reach that goal are shocking, but also make sense with what Ethan is trying to achieve. One thing I really appreciate about the film is that it makes a point of stating this is not a case of dissociative personality disorder. While they refer to the different versions of Ethan as “personalities,” the fact that they make sure to explain that each personality is really just a different, specific facet of Ethan. Thrillers and horror films so often show individuals with DPD in a negative light, so making this distinction is a much needed and welcome change. It ultimately helps Minor Premise stand out while still keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.
Minor Premise has outstanding performances, but the clear stand out is Sathya Sridharan (Bikini Moon, All the Little Things We Kill) as Ethan. Sridharan completely shines in every moment he’s on screen. Not only does he play the original Ethan, but he has to play the other 9 facets of Ethan’s personality. With subtle facial expressions, physical movement, and manner of speaking, Sridharan is able to easily convey which version of Ethan he is portraying in any given moment. It’s really a fantastic performance that drives the increasing suspense of the plot. Honorable mention goes to Paton Ashbrook (Shameless) as Alli and Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks) as Malcolm, who both also excel in their roles.
Because the performances in Minor Premise are the focal point of the film, the filmmakers opted for more subtle visuals. Aside from the production design, science experiment props, and darkly creepy lighting, the one thing that makes quite an impact is the makeup. As the plot progresses, the audience sees Ethan’s physical health decline as his body cannot withstand the constant switching between personalities. The makeup effects make him look more gaunt, pale, and sickly throughout the film. It begins with subtle changes, but becomes more and more pronounced. It’s a great way to show Ethan’s time running out and adds to the suspense.
Minor Premise is a unique sci-fi thriller that plays with the mind in the most delightful way. The filmmakers clearly have a firm understanding of how to create impactful suspense from start to finish. Sridharan is the true heart and soul of this film with his absolutely stunning performance as the many versions of Ethan. The film also boasts subtle yet effective makeup to convey just how dire the situation is. It’s the kind of film that brings up interesting scientific theories and the ethics behind them. Schultz, Torrey, and Moretto show the world they are highly skilled storytellers. Minor Premise is an especially strong debut for both Schultz and Moretto, making it known we should pay attention to their future careers.
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10